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How To Fly A Rocket

The Kings of Outer Space

Western Star

One of the highlights during this year’s Western Star Records birthday bash, The Kings of Outer Space extend their space fantasies further with ‘How To Fly A Rocket’. Paul Newman, aka Greggsy, of Western Star’s other hot cats The Cheaterslicks continues his association on bass duties and in the process leaving the more-than-capable frontman duties to the charismatic Giggsy to spin yarns of paranoia and obsessions. It is these very subjects that line the walls of opening ’44’ with its use of accordion – yes, accordion – gripping the senses and equally compelling lyrics concerning a fixation of OCD sized proportions regarding the number in question. Such obsessions spill over into the rockin’ ‘Fall From Grace’ only the fixation this time is with the opposite sex or alien species, depending on your interpretation,  ‘moving to the rhythm of the drums and bass’. ‘Daggertrap’ shakes things up in a full-on instrumental romp consisting of driving bass and raucous guitars occasionally crawling up and down the red-hot scales to spine-tingling effect. ‘Monkey Alarm’ is the not too distant relation of ‘Ghost Town’, from first album ‘Cosmic Debris’, as one can almost hear the desperate pleas of “Gotta get away” only this time it’s emanating from a group of monkeys subjected to the cruelties of BMX testing! Such injections of humour is part of the appeal of The Kings of Outer Space but also their open nature to experimentation such as the odd little ditty ‘Creepy Crawl’, sounding as if fronted by Terry Hall, to the sprightly banjo of ‘Long Dry Summer’ and topped off in fantastic fashion by the excellent and warped doo wop harmonising of ‘Moon Buggy Baby’. The Kings of Outer Space return where they left off, as ‘How To Fly A Rocket’ is on an equal par with its debut, which is fine praise indeed.


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Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard

The Cheaterslicks

Western Star

Having undergone one or two line-up changes since debut album ‘ Rev Up, Burn Out’, the change in personnel has definitely not subdued The Cheaterslicks momentum. If anything, new album ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard’ is a considerable leap forward in the department labelled ‘variation’ compared to its predecessor that was more foot to the floor rockabilly and therefore living up to its moniker.

Despite opening song ‘Bayou Boogie’ suggesting a repeat of their previous winning formula, the band opt for more challenging terrain by letting in the blues and adding a country twang or two. Once ‘Don’t Ya Know’ swoops in on a lovely vocal drawl and claims your heart within a matter of seconds, it is clear The Cheaterslicks not only have a major hit single on their hands but also the creative department is under exploration. ‘Betty Page (Let’s Talk About Love)’ adds further weight to such ideas due to its playful taunts rubbing up against the serious declarations given by lead vocalist Paul Newman as it is played to a slight country beat, which is stretched further with the unreciprocated love of ‘Tears Heartaches & You’. The western feel of ‘Desert Wind’ completes this (almost) trilogy of country-inspired songs, bearing in mind the raucous ‘Nothing To Lose’ sandwiched in between, and reveals Newman’s depth of vocal delivery (head to the magnificent ‘Blonde Blue Eyed Beauty’ for further evidence).

‘Bad Bad Girl’ sees The Cheaterslicks comparing notes over a few rounds of drinks with label mates The Wolftones as it’s reminiscent of the latter’s blues-inspired numbers with its strutting beat and tight harmonica.

The rumbling and shaking instrumental ‘Gasolina’ unveils further facets to this album, which is nicely balanced with the restrained rhythm of ‘Honey Bee’, pleading for its ‘baby’ to come on home, only to be usurped by the outlaw quality of ‘Forgotten Places’.

Clocking in at a sizable 18 tracks, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard’ will severely test the patience of those more attuned to the present culture of downloads whereby a handful of songs more than suffice. As it stands, The Cheaterslicks seem to be hitting a rich vein of form, and one that is not afraid to experiment, as the majority of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard’ reveals a winning formula to rival any in the modern rockin’ stakes.


Released Out now

 

Way Down Low

Kat Edmonson

Sony

Hailing from Texas, Kat Edmonson’s ‘Way Down Low’ is largely a jazz-inspired album that emanates an old-time quality overall. Look no further than the reworking of Brian Wilson’s ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ that is definitely at home in its supper club environment somewhere in New York City as Edmondson’s vocal fills the void to a delicate jazz arrangement. There are traces of folk as well with the gorgeous ‘I Don’t Know’ and fingerpicking intro ‘What Else Can I Do’ that eventually paves way for more jazz references. The duet with Lyle Lovett, ‘Long Way Home’ is a real delight as it’s delivered with the bare minimum of instrumentation allowing for the merest hint of western swing without breaking into full flow. The closing ‘S Wonderful’ really transports the listener back to a more primitive time and suggests that Kat Edmonson was also made for an altogether different period in history. ‘Way Down Low’ is a truly exceptional experience.


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Hail To The King

Avenged Sevenfold

Warner Music Norway

Do not be dissuaded by the skull imagery adorning this sixth studio album release by America’s Avenged Sevenfold because this is more old-school metal than anything of the black metal variety. Produced by Mike Elizondo, who was also responsible for the band’s previous album ‘Nightmare’, ‘Hail To The King’ consists of ten tracks that owe a debt of gratitude to the 80s and 90s metal and rock scenes as elements of Guns ‘N’ Roses and Metallica (lite) bubble to the surface during the ominous ‘Shepherd Of Fire’ before giving way to the opening guitar squall of title track ‘Hail To The King’. Such reference points are to be commended, however, as ‘Hail To The King’ turns up the amps and leaves behind the softer edges of previous efforts ‘So far Away’ and ‘Dear God’ as evidenced by the rumbling ‘Doing Time’; colossus that is ‘Planets’ and impressive vocals of ‘This Means War’.


Released Out now

 

Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10

Bob Dylan

Columbia

Spread out over a two-disc set, ‘Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 ‘ is the newest release from Bob Dylan. With a considerably hefty 35 tracks to wade through of rarities and previously unreleased recordings, Bob Dylan reworks traditional and contemporary folk songs without forgetting compositions of his own; ‘Went To See The Gypsy’ is one such example straight off the bat that evokes abstract memories of the latter 60s period whereas ‘Minstrel Boy’ really projects the ambiance of the basement approach to this recording.  It has been cited that ‘Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10’ was considered Dylan’s most controversial periods – the transition from the 60s – 70s playing its part – yet at the same time induced a prolific bout of creativity. Considering the aforementioned number of songs covered here and the breadth of narratives – the fantastic ‘Railroad Bill’ for one – it is not difficult to comprehend why this release has been provided with such a description. More than just filler, ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait’ is an essential addition to all serious collectors but also not a bad place to start for those of the uninitiated to Bob Dylan and his music.


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Trap Lord

A$AP Ferg

Columbia

While this album may not appeal to everyone, there is no disputing the true inventiveness running throughout the majority of ‘Trap Lord’. There is a real unorthodox approach musically with compelling yet detached spooky beats and impressions of running commentary; ‘Didn’t Wanna Do That’ being a perfect example complete with distant police sirens and dreamy female backing vocals that drift in and out. The icy spectre looming over ‘Let It Go’ is executed to perfection with its climbing electronica and downright weird closing sermon regarding paying your dues with vocals straight from the monastery floating over the top. The tribute to dancehall artist Shabba Ranks (‘Shabba’) follows in similar tone with its chilling rhythm and penetrating chorus which is smoothed over with the mellow sounding ‘Hood Pope’. ‘Trap Lord’ is an imaginative journey musically and one that details an (almost) open book which is equally captivating.


Released September 2nd

 

Polka Dot Girl (single)

Burning Condors

Snakehand Records

The opening confession of ‘She’s telling me its Primark’ is the perfect introduction and one that owes a debt of gratitude to the Jarvis Cocker school of lyrical songwriting as The Burning Condors kick-off their latest single ‘Polka Dot Girl’ in some style. Musically, there is more of a connection to the punk sounds of the Sex Pistols, complete with pogoing effect and out of tune backing vocals, as the central protagonist salivates over (possibly) his latest conquest straight from one of London’s more dead-end discos. ‘Polka Dot Girl’ is a dirty slice of primitive rock ‘n’ roll that bodes well for the band’s imminent debut album release this September.


Released Out now

 

Made Up Mind

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Sony

Sporting the sight of a buffalo on a collision course with a steam train during the latter’s early inception to the wild west perhaps best describes the music on offer with Tedeschi Trucks Band’s second album ‘Made Up Mind’ as there is a real collision of styles whether blues, soul, folk or rock. Despite this melting pot of varying styles, Tedeschi Trucks Band manage to make things work largely due to such deft musicianship but also wondrous vocals supplied by Susan Tedeschi. Where this combination of styles works best is the gutsy blues-rocker ‘Whiskey Legs’, Tedeschi’s vocal emphasising the abrasiveness to great effect; guitar-driven zip of ‘Made Up Mind’ and two ballad-esque numbers ‘It’s So Heavy’ and more stripped-down ‘Calling Out To You’. Despite all of this greatness, ‘Do I look Worried’ steals the plaudits with its powerful, soulful delivery that is resolutely defiant in its beliefs and ably supported with some lovely brass instrumentation and raucous bluesy guitar work.


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På Rett Kjøl (single)

Bjørn Eidsvåg

Sony

Taken from forthcoming long player ‘Far Faller’, ‘På Rett Kjøl’ witnesses Norway’s Bjørn Eidsvåg team up with fellow Norwegian Kurt Nilsen to deliver a cleverly-crafted song about trying to keep a lid on those inner demons, which is never easy at the best of times. The thin veil of disguise with the almost ghostly quality of the musical accompaniment gives an indication of the thoughts alluded to as ‘På Rett Kjøl’ is a cunning ditty that possesses equal amounts of uplifting qualities. A more restrained Kurt Nielsen proves to be a masterstroke as well, as the dual vocals complement one another without overstating their undoubted qualities. A very intriguing precursor to a much-anticipated album.


Released Out now

 

Paradise Valley

John Mayer

Columbia

John Mayer returns with latest album ‘Paradise Valley’ which sees a return to roots of sorts with a largely country-tinged affair held together by a light smattering of the more bluesy pickings he is more renowned for. Such familiar sounding ground can be heard midsection with the (almost) brisk tempo of ‘Call Me The Breeze’ that is dramatically cut short when in full swing only to be greeted by the mellow pop edges no doubt brought to the table by Katy Perry during ‘Who You Love’. In fact, there is such an effortless quality about the majority of songs held within that one cannot help but succumb to such delights of album opener ‘Wildfire’ that is all handclaps and campfire boogie or the gentle acoustic strum of open love letter ‘Dear Marie’ to realise that John Mayer possesses something of the Midas touch when it comes to songwriting.


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The Wild Feathers

The Wild Feathers

Warner Music Norway

Interestingly, The Wild Feathers amalgamated from a number of bands where several of the members were responsible for main vocal duties. One would assume a clash of egos due to their former responsibilities but not for newcomers The Wild Feathers as they merely utilise such clear advantages to their overall benefit. The end result for the band’s eponymously titled album blends country, folk, blues and rock that harks back to a 70s era full of Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash yet given a modern sheen. Guilty of such comparisons is opening track ‘Backwoods Company’; a song full of vigour with its raucous guitars spliced with occasional bluesy harmonica. Next up is the driving and melodic ‘American’ that is nostalgic in its outlook and suggestive of open roads. ‘Tall Boots’ reveals a tender side as does ‘Left My Woman’; the latter of which draws out the strength in depth of the vocals. Our money, however, is on the gathering momentum of ‘The Ceiling’ with its uplifting qualities and dramatic finale that render ‘The Wild Feathers’ a resounding success.


Released Out now

 

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars

Columbia

Debut album ‘Barton Hollow’ from American country-folk duo The Civil Wars was always going to be a tough challenge to overcome when it came to album number two. Despite any initial fears held due to the sheer quality running throughout their debut album, The Civil Wars pull out the stops once more and deliver a resounding triumph that expands on its predecessor with a fuller and slightly firmer sound. The cover artwork with its darkened cloud depicting a sense of impending doom sums up the regret felt during ‘The One That Got Away’. There is a real sultriness about ‘I Had Me A Girl’ that even stems to the guitar strings sounding tetchy under the song’s humidity. ‘Same Old, Same Old’ is anything but tired sounding as it reveals an aching beauty that leads appropriately into the tenderness of ‘Dust To Dust’. It is sincerely hoped that The Civil Wars fight off any further sense of unrest, as reported in the media, and make it to third base because they now have two classic albums on their CV.



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