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Rough Hands

Rough Hands

Holy Roar Records

There are no compromises to be found here as Rough Hands deliver an inducing set of post-hardcore songs of brutal intensity that never outstay their welcome. The eponymously titled EP clocks in and clocks out without so much as a whimper as perfectly orchestrated with opener ‘Dilute’ and then proceeded with the headlong assault of ‘Maledictus’. ‘Toska’ nearly offers more of the same only for Rough Hands to deftly change tactics midway through with skeletal guitars leaving room for the finale of ‘Spite’ to offer a similar manoeuvre but with more abrasive intent. It will be interesting to see how Rough Hands develop with a broader canvass of a full-length player.


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Didn’t It Rain

Hugh Laurie

Warner Music Norway

Incredible to think that Hugh Laurie has gone from comedic actor to serious actor and now turning his attention to blues music with follow-up album ‘Didn’t It Rain’ to the well-received debut ‘Let Them Talk’. Whilst the latter focused on celebrating and reviving classic songs from the world of NOLA blues, ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is a departure from the New Orleans sound and a steady progression into the exploration of the blues further inland towards America’s central regions. In doing so, Laurie has turned his attention to early pioneers such as W.C. Handy ‘St. Louis Blues’ and the imaginatively titled Jelly Roll Morton ‘I Hate A Man Like You’ bringing this up-to-date with more recent artists Dr. John ‘Wild Honey’ and The Animals Alan Price with ‘Changes’. If there are any doubters remaining, however, as to the musical credentials of Hugh Laurie, then roll back to the contented sentiments of ‘Junkers Blues’; weep at the quite exquisite ‘Careless Love’ or eavesdrop on the stripped-back sounding before adding some weight confessions of ‘Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair’ to realise that ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is more than a simple side project reliant on its various collaborators to give it kudos. ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is the second instalment of a fascinating journey of America’s blues music. Long may it continue.


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Tate Stevens

Tate Stevens

Sony

Slipping into a confident country-rock groove from the off with ‘I Got This’, Tate Stevens ability to balance work and play is far from troublesome. Such self-assurance has no doubt been gained from previous stints fronting the Dixie Cadillacs; the Outlaw Junkies and later the Tate Stevens Band, therefore making the transition to solo artist a natural progression as the move looks set to pay dividends. Such conviction can be garnered from the robust and guitar-driven ‘Ride It Out’ that simply lights up this self-titled debut. Mamma’s approval is sought after concerning Tate’s latest flame on the mid-tempo rocker that is ‘Sweet’ whereas ‘The Last Thing I Do’ is relentless in its desires as guitars and occasional piano compete for pole position. There is room of course for the obligatory ‘big’ country ballad with ‘Power Of A Love Song’ but it remains the slightly more quirky, and Brad Paisley-esque, ‘El Camino’ that truly charms.


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The Low Highway

Steve Earle

Warner Music Norway

With Steve Earle’s creative enthusiasm for coming up with the goods time and time again, ‘The Low Highway’, accompanied by The Dukes and Duchesses, shows no signs of waning as this album will take some topping. Being cited as his ‘road’ record, nicely illustrated by the liner notes, ‘The Low Highway’ reveals a breadth of acoustic strummers, country-rock numbers, elements of bluegrass and in the process revealing all facets of Earle’s enduring talents. The mid-tempo jaunt and slight carefree attitude of ‘Love’s Gonna Blow My Way’ breezes through only to be halted in its tracks by the wonderfully portrayed barroom blues of ‘Pocket Full of Rain’. It is left to the title track and lovely drifting strum of ‘Burnin’ It Down’, however, to claim the overall prizes.


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Home

Rudimental

Warner Music Norway

Title track and opening up the front door to Rudimental’s debut ‘Home’ starts proceedings sublimely as it meanders at mid-tempo with a constant wary glance over the shoulder which is in stark contrast to the explosive drum & bass and soulful vocals of former UK No. 1 single ‘Feel The Love’. This London-based collective have truly ploughed their own furrow musically by years spent in dancehalls (not that type), listening to pirate radio, improvised DJ set ups as well as sourcing material from older siblings who had that advantage of age on their side in terms of arriving at the sounds first. Of course London’s urban surroundings has also provided inspiration – ‘Hell Could Freeze’ reflective of this with its mix of sweet vocals that now and again rub up against a more abrasive surface. With various artists offering their services – Emeli Sande weighs in with the brooding ‘More Than Anything’ and closing ‘Free’ – Rudimental’s ‘Home’ brings to mind Massive Attack’s seminal ‘Blue Lines’, due to the level of collaborations, and in the process reviving a much-missed concept.


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Life On A Rock

Kenny Chesney

Sony

Kenny Chesney is really opting for a more simplistic way of life with latest album ‘Life On A Rock’. Nowhere is this more evident than current single, and album opener, ‘Pirate Flag’ with intentions of finding the remotest destination in an attempt to get away from it all. This is pretty much the mood throughout as songs stroll blissfully in the midsummer sun, drawing on the talents of country legend Willie Nelson with the carefree and wishful thinking ‘Coconut Tree’ and digressing with the reggae inspired ‘Spread The Love’ featuring the Wailers. Surprisingly the latter song is thematically suited to the overall ambience being projected here but remains at odds coming from the lips of a country singer. Fear not as normal order is restored with the beautifully touching ‘Lindy’; country-rock ‘Life On A Rock’ and delicate strumming of ‘Marley’ to suggest that Kenny Chesney is not ready to hang up his spurs just yet.


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Bankrupt!

Phoenix

Warner Music Norway

The title of Phoenix’s fifth studio album ‘Bankrupt!’ is perhaps more a statement of a growing mediocrity when it comes to the creative industries rather than the continuing fiscal meltdown the world is still experiencing.  Such attention to details may also have inflicted upon the band members themselves as ‘Bankrupt!’ has been nearly four years in the making not because of a general fatigue due to past successes but more to do with a general desire to maintain the creative progressive thinking. The four years has definitely been worth the wait as ‘Bankrupt!’ continues in slightly similar vein to its predecessor ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’ with its glossy pop exterior only there is enough here to suggest a more indifferent centre. ‘Entertainment’ is a product of the former as it dances in the sunlight whereas ‘The Real Thing’ glistens round the edges but never fully projects itself due to its colder interior, which is further compounded with the more upbeat ‘S.O.S. In Bel Air’ and icy breeze of ‘Trying To Be Cool’. The tempo decreases once more, however, towards the latter part of the album and inflicts darker shades of electronica with ‘Chloroform’, ‘Don’t’ and appropriately titled closer ‘Oblique City’.

Despite possessing enough immediate charms, ‘Bankrupt!’ will require a little more investment if you truly want to get to the core of this work as Phoenix continue to remain one step ahead.


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Tales of Space Travel & Revenge

The Refusal

Refused Records

There’s an eclectic mix of ska, punk, funk, and new wave brewing in the West Country and hails under the banner of The Refusal. Having been peddling their wares since 2008 and doing rather well on the live scene, the narratives making up ‘Tales of Space Travel & Revenge’ are as eclectic as the very influences driving them. This broad appeal, however, is where The Refusal’s space travel becomes a little fuddled on occasions such as the ‘shall we pursue the rock route’ of ‘Maybe This Time’ or more straight ska of ‘Cynic’ as the album in its entirety would benefit from a more restrained approach. Such gripes aside, there are moments were these fusions of sounds genuinely work with the detailed layers of ‘Theme From Project X’ to the life unravelling ‘The Seams’ and reflective ‘Miles’ revealing a band with considerable experience. Unfortunately, such good work is quickly undone due to the aforementioned lapses in direction as ‘No Way’ clearly reminds the listener of why this album falls slightly short.


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The New Enlightenment

Rayne

Untitled

First impressions can be deceiving. Having been enamoured earlier with the 80s guitar sounds reminiscent of (whisper it folks) The Flock of Seagulls sounding ‘Fallen’ single, surprisingly a hidden track, Rayne’s ‘The New Enlightenment’ is the sound of a band aiming for the stars only to be undermined by a general sloppiness that becomes irksome after a while. If one looks close enough between the covers, then the cracks begin to reveal themselves, whether musically or lyrically, because there are some killer songs among the ruins that are simply crying out for a surge of power to truly launch them into the next stratosphere. This is largely due to being hampered by a substandard production throughout, and occasional wannabe guitars wishing that they were rooming with Iron Maiden when sounding more like a diluted Muse. Redemption can be found, however, with the anthemic ‘Hide Away’ and sweetly addictive ‘The Ground Floor’ or when the band attempt subtlety with standout ‘My Final Plea’ and running it a close second ‘Lost and Confused’. If Rayne is to truly suggest they’re offering a new enlightenment, then mining these latter songs further could be their saving grace.


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Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Bomb

With an eponymously titled debut album in the offing consisting of fourteen tracks of authentic rockabilly – thirteen of which are self-penned – new recruits to the Rhythm Bomb roster, Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets seem set to follow in the footsteps of label mates Marc & the Wild Ones as ones to watch in 2013. Being only of tender age yet sounding as if they have been producing these rockin’ tunes for a lot longer, such is their aptitude for songwriting, Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets debut is an accomplished affair yet nicely balanced with a slightly rough around the edges approach that is guided by the rather aptly titled ‘Walk With Me’ that literally leads the listener into the heart of this work with its occasional vocal hiccups, handclaps and dexterous guitar. It is that VOCAL, however, that really defines this four-piece band from Germany due to its immense power that clearly states its intent during ‘Be Mine’ and crystal clear demands of ‘Treat Me Right’ (‘well if you want me don’t be bad’). There is simply not much room to come up for air as Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets maintain the rockin’ momentum in a blistering array of rawness ‘Can’t Stop Boppin’, ‘Looking Up’, ‘Waiting’ that will leave you gaping in awe. If this is the sound of the rising underground of rockabilly talent, then FLW will struggle to contain its excitement as Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets have already reached the stars.


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Paramore

Paramore

Warner Music Norway

Feeling a little weary at the prospect of reviewing a Paramore album due to a deluge of similar sounding bands spilling forth out of the states, their fourth album to date is nothing but a welcome relief judging by initial impressions. After agreeing to continue as a three piece due to various reasons and without doubt hinted at in the slightly quirky ‘Moving On’ with its ‘Well I could be angry but you’re not worth the fight’, this Nashville-based band has produced a string of hook-laden tracks that compel from the off. It is the – and dare I say it – maturity in the songwriting which really comes to the fore here, and in the process creating a succession of standout songs such as the climax building ‘Daydreaming’; aptly titled and lovely pop feel of ‘Grow Up’; ‘Ain’t It Fun’ with its choir interlude to more familiar territory with ‘Part II’. On this current form, Paramore is the perfect example of a band, if given enough time, steadily working towards their creative peak. Bearing this in mind, album number five promises to be something special.


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We Got The Bug!

The Bird Doggin' Daddies

Rhythm Bomb

Predominantly a covers affair with a mammoth eighteen tracks to consume, The Bird Doggin’ Daddies ‘We Got The Bug!’ does not outstay its welcome. This is largely due to the frenetic pace of the chosen covers, revealing en veldig god smak, but also the deft musicianship that binds these driving rhythms together. There is a certain freshness about the manner in which this four-piece attack versions of ‘Daddy-O-Rock’ and ‘We’re Gonna Rock It’ nearly claiming both numbers as their own because that’s exactly the impression given throughout due to confidence riding high yet not without an abundance of respect given to the originals.

It is this very same self-assurance, however, that needs to be leaned on further when it comes to the band’s own compositions because when The Bird Doggin’ Daddies rely on their own compositions they more than stand up to the covers being offered here. Look no further than the guitar pickin’, rockin’ belter that is ‘Better Be Gone’ and even more compelling low-slung ride of ‘Crossbone Jim (Mystery lane)’ suggesting a band with a lot more in their locker than is currently being revealed. As it stands, ‘We Got The Bug!’ is stunning in its execution and a teaser until the next instalment where it is hoped The Bird Doggin’ Daddies state their authority further with an album full of original compositions.



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