Album Reviews

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Oh, Brother…It’s The Doel Brothers!

The Doel Brothers

El Toro

Possessing more in common with the Southwest of the US than the South East of England when it comes to attire and more importantly music, The Doel Brothers ‘Oh, Brother…It’s The Doel Brothers!’ transports the listener to an era of western swing, honkytonk, hillbilly boogie and rockabilly. What transpires during the course of this album is the seemingly effortless manner in which the three brothers David, Gordon, Tom and odd man out Gary churn out a stream of short sharp ditties packed with intricate details that reveals a wealth of experience at the heart of this engine. Listen out for the fingerpicking delight that is ‘Educated Mind’ with its intriguing lyrics suggesting an imbalance when it comes to experience and a relationship. The spring in its step of ‘Kissin Bug Boogie’ brings a smile to the face whereas the more rockabilly inspired ‘Tell Me You’re Mine’ weighs heavy at the other end of the scale due to being full of pent-up (sexual) frustration. The moonshine corks are popped during ‘Whiskey Lovin’ Fool’ sang to perfection with occasional hillbilly croon and revealing edges of humour yet fully aware that there is a serious problem at heart. There is such a delightful lilting quality to this whole album that leaves one hankering for days gone by. Embrace these guys with open arms because The Doel Brothers deserve the upmost respect.


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Weapon In Mind

Maria Mena

Sony

Interesting is definitely the word to use when describing Maria Mena’s latest album ‘Weapon In Mind’. Starting off in trademark fashion with vocals that suggest hope  when pretty much all else has failed, ‘Interesting’ literally takes its moniker to heart and decides to erupt during its chorus in flashes of electronica and a vocal that is abrasive as it hollers behind its sweeter sounding sibling. The honest confessions of ‘F*** You’ is reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ lyrically, in the sense that it leaves nothing to the imagination and this remains its undoing despite the beautiful, soaring qualities of the music. Such negativity stretches to the grating vocal delivery during the chorus of ‘All The Love’ before normal service resumes with the introspective and beautiful vocals of ‘I Always Like That’ and darker tones of ‘Madness’ with its moments of wonderful tumbling guitar sounds. ‘I Love You Too’ is skeletal in its arrangements with the faintest hint of piano and Maria softly singing, “It’s not been an easy ride, no count of the tears I’ve cried” that will have you reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex to help stem the tide due to this tearjerker. Things take a slight dip once more with the rather pedestrian ‘You Make Me Feel Good’, only for the head turning curiosity ‘You’re All Telling Stories’ and shadowy ‘Lover Let Me In’ that propels ‘Weapon In Mind’ to the heights of previous glories. As said previously, interesting is definitely the right choice of word because despite its flaws ‘Weapon In Mind’ finds its targets more than it misses.

 


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Flightless Birds (single)

Svalbard

Tangled Talk Records

Svalbard being a cluster of islands situated in the Arctic Ocean and constituting the northernmost part of Norway, is a far distant cry from its musical namesake situated in the city of Bristol. It seems fitting, however, that such desolate islands receives recognition when hearing the isolated and frustrated emotions running through this four-piece band. Immediately launching in to a vocal and sonic assault that is equally raw and melodic, ‘Flightless Birds’ is a song on the verge of losing all hope and terrified at the prospect of remaining grounded as indicated by the lead vocal that is hanging by the merest of threads. The flipside, ‘For What It’s Worth’ offers no respite from the crushing disappointment felt within, compellingly played out with moments of Fugazi-esque vocals rubbing shoulders with the more frequent and harsher sounds. It looks like Tangled Talk Records has an emerging talent on their hands.


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Mire

Stallone

Tangled Talk & Enjoyment Records

Being hailed as one of the most impressive debut albums in recent memory, Stallone release ‘Mire’ via Tangled Talk and Enjoyment Records. A seven-track playlist that doesn’t hang around for too long due to its frenetic pace, the working progression was in fact a much longer period and clearly evident with the attention to detail throughout. Look no further than the red hot ‘As A Serpent’ spitting bile and climaxing in heap of blaring guitars. The equally impressive ‘Without A Home’ maintains the intensity yet is slightly more spacious than its predecessor with moments of reflection before giving way to pummelling guitars. The jaw-droppingly good ‘A Chalice’ highlights a range of influences that the band appear to incorporate with ease yet churn out with painstaking attention to detail as evidenced here. Technically astute and screaming from the heart, Stallone is heading for a very bright future indeed.


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Don’t Stop The Rock Bop

B and The Bops

Rhythm Bomb

Something special is brewing in Croatia when it comes to the rockin’ sound. B and The Bops is the band and ‘Don’t Stop The Rock Bop’ is their sound. Casting a suspicious gaze over a stuttering romance ‘Prove Your Love Is True’, B and The Bops set about their business in boisterous mood. Set to a steady rhythm ‘Come Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone’ is the issued warning and likely outcome when considering lines such as, “You killed me with your coldness for years and years too long” before wheels are set firmly in motion with perky guitars, forceful bass and all-too-brief  authentic peeping steam whistle.  There is fun to be had though, with the textbook wild rockin’ ‘Don’t Stop The Rock Bop’ and live recorded feel of ‘Rock You Baby’. Having been cast adrift once too often (‘Fool I Am’), B and The Bops are no pushovers either as demonstrated by the sting in the tail of ‘Forget About You’. Unfortunately for this Croatian four piece, the moments of heartbreak remain essential to their expertly executed rockabilly sound and long may it reign.


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Wild Wild Lover

Sonny Tucker and The Tornados

Rhythm Bomb

Not particularly renowned for wild-sounding rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, but in the instance of Sonny Tucker and The Tornados Switzerland has something to cheer about. Armed with fourteen rockin’ tracks, ‘Wild Wild Lover’ begins in guitar pickin’ fashion and a superb authentic vocal calling for a “rock with the Tornados, rock the whole night long” because there really is no other way once this song gets under your skin. The mood takes a more downbeat turn during the reflective ‘Don’t Hang Around Me Anymore’ with guitars slowing to a mid-tempo rhythm, edges slightly twanging and adding to the melancholy. This sombre tone is enhanced further with the closing refrain held during ‘I Don’t Care’; “Goodbye my sweetheart, see you down in hell” warbled to great effect and sounding as black as ash in its utter contempt. Title track, ‘Wild Wild Lover’ is played out to steady thunderous beats before breaking loose in a fit of despair once the lover in question has departed to pastures new. ‘Did You Mean Jelly Bean’ reveals another facet to Sonny Tucker’s vocals as it delightfully rumbles out to slight exaggeration the chorus and handled by some serious dexterous guitar. If it’s wild rock ‘n’ roll you’re searching for, then the self-explanatory ‘The House Is Rockin’ will leave you gaping in sheer awe before being brought back down to earth with the Hawaiian sway of ‘Lovers Rock’. Not only is ‘Wild Wild Lover’ an exhilarating ride of wild rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, but it constantly screams out as a reminder that Sonny Tucker and The Tornados is ‘the’ band to experience live during the coming months.


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Rewind The Film

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

The Manic Street Preachers return after a three-year hiatus with new album ‘Rewind The Film’. As with previous album ‘Postcards From A Young Man’, ‘Rewind The Film’ calls on various collaborators to add their own unique touches. Such is the desire for outside input from the Manics these days that album opener ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’ ushers in Warwickshire singer-songwriter Lucy Rose from the start, but not before James Dean Bradfield’s faint and almost nursery rhyme announcement, “I don’t want my children to grow up like me”. Next up is more modern era sounding Manic Street Preachers with the polished brass and soul influence of ‘Show Me The Wonder’, revealing the band’s penchant for the occasional ‘hit’ single in mind. With Richard Hawley stealing the show in trademark baritone vocal during title track ‘Rewind The Film’, the mood of this whole album is one that is both reflective on the past and the present; the latter of which is relayed with the overfamiliarity of one’s surroundings ‘Running Out Of Fantasy’. A more minimalist affair than previous recordings, ‘Rewind The Film’ may well be the Manic’s swansong or the first step toward a new direction judging by the uncharacteristic and warped sounds of nearly instrumental ‘Manorbier’. Only time will tell.


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MGMT

MGMT

Columbia

Stripping back the paintwork and splashes of colour, MGMT – aka Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser – return with their third studio album under the same name. While it is difficult to comprehend comments of ‘ground breaking’ and ‘pushing the boundaries’ at various times – Bowie was living a futuristic lifestyle long before ‘Alien Days’ – MGMT is still offering a tad more in the experimentation department when it comes to their contemporaries. What is particularly pleasing about this self-titled collection, however, is the usage of fewer colours and in its place a colder and greyer climate found with the tribal electronic rhythm of ‘Cool Song No. 2’ that will definitely not win any awards for being instantaneous and ditto the cold chamber delivery of ‘Mystery Disease’ sounding far removed from events taking place on planet Earth. ‘Your Life Is A Lie’ seems to inherit the same oddball pop territory of They Might Be Giants but with a more serious demeanour, only to be buried by the following multi-layered electronica of ‘A Good Sadness’ offering a fitting summary overall.

 


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Stay True

Danny & The Champions of the World

Loose Music

With a UK tour underway, Danny & The Champions of the World have every reason to feel a sense of gratification regarding the critical appraisal currently bestowed upon them for latest effort ‘Stay True’. A measure of self-satisfaction is more than granted when listening to the warm, country-tinged ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’ as frontman Danny George Wilson recollects fragments of memories of family relations and a jukebox crammed with 50s nostalgia. ‘Cold Cold War’ is played out accordingly with its subdued country feel and downbeat soulful vocal striving to hold together a failing relationship. Similar ground can be found with ‘Stop Thief!’ that somehow manages to wade through the tears to deliver a vocal of the highest order with shades of early Springsteen. Radiating a warm musical ambience yet teetering on the edge lyrically, ‘Stay True’ is an honest and raw document of a band clearly at ease with itself and entering the form of its life.


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Everything I Am Not (single)

Down The Machine

Ambicon Records

Recalling the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden but closer to Richard Patrick of Filter when it comes to the vocals, Down The Machine gear up for a new album release in 2014 with a brand new single to whet the appetite. ‘Everything I Am Not’ is a very impressive indication of what is to come with a steadily building tempo of industrial electronica via Depeche Mode’s ‘Violator’ that really jolts to life when the realisation sinks in that one’s existence is not quite up to scratch, “You are everything I am not”. If Down The Machine can reproduce this sort of form, then next year’s full-length player promises to be an exciting prospect.


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Feels Like Home

Sheryl Crow

Warner Music Norway

Surprisingly, ‘Feels Like Home’ is Sheryl Crow’s first country album as there are shades of country aligned with her more rock roots dating back to first album ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’. That said, ‘Feels Like Home’ is definitely a straight country-rock record that is more at home at the commercial end of the market than the scuffed edges of the Americana scene. ‘Shotgun’ is one such example, full of swagger and immediate hooks coupled with some lovely mandolin rising above the country-rock strings. ‘Easy’ has Sheryl Crow written all the way through its centre with its catchy chorus, and this time relying a bit more on her pop influences, but it remains a song that could have graced much of her previous works. There is a lovely sweeping quality about ‘Give It To Me’, due to various orchestral strings residing in the background, which is in stark contrast to the quirky edges of ‘We Oughta Be Drinkin’, “But some nights are made for staying at home, roll a big fat one and watch Nashville alone” which is apt considering the majority of ‘Feels Like Home’ could soundtrack said TV show. But with the cynicism of ‘Crazy Ain’t Original These Days’, deeply melancholic ‘Homesick’ that really tugs at the heartstrings and proceeded with more quality ‘Homecoming Queen’ and jagged barbs of the fully aware ‘Best Of Times’, ‘Feels Like Home’ contains a few more hidden depths than its immediate polish suggests.


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The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement

Warner Music Norway

With the Temperance Movement’s only other release to date being the five-track EP ‘Pride’ (2012), the band’s first long player is a highly accomplished affair that draws, in part, on a 70s rock sound with elements of blues and folk-tinged roots. Despite early warnings suggesting the Black Crowes had been on heavy rotation leading up to the making of the band’s debut album (‘Only Friend’), it was reassuring to hear less ballsy rockers such as the tender ‘Pride’ and simply gorgeous ‘Chinese Lanterns’ constructed on aspects of folk and country. What separates The Temperance Movement, however, is the understated quality in their songwriting and actual delivery that keeps feet planted firmly on ground without a necessity to sound overblown during their more raucous moments as ‘Morning Riders’ and blues rock of ‘Know For Sure’. The simple fact remains, however, when the amps are turned down low The Temperance Movement shine to greater heights as clearly heard with the exquisite beauty of ‘Lovers and Fighters’.



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