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What’s Left Is Forever

Thomas Dybdahl

Petroleum Records / Sony Music

Back in 2002, ‘…that Great October Sound’ was the first introduction to a man and his music that suggested a hermitic existence deep in the pine forests of Norway with a fragile and unconventional vocal being his only defence. Fast forward to the present, and the darker shades of green have been exchanged for the golden beaches of LA in an attempt to break, or at least get a foothold in the increasingly difficult American music market. ‘What’s Left Is Forever’ is Thomas Dybdahl’s latest album, and it has definitely been worth the wait. Relinquishing control over production duties and introducing legendary producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell fame) was a masterstroke as ‘What’s Left Is Forever’ is the sound of an artist being able to concentrate on the songs, which in turn has allowed for a considerable looseness and variation to the album as a whole. ‘Running On Fumes’ is one such example with its initial sparse beats that eventually gather increasing splashes of sound before concluding in brief applause. ‘Shine’ gives the impression of classic Dybdahl with delicate vocals accompanied by the barest of instrumentation until an electric guitar forces its entrance in a bullish manner shaking the song to life and bringing fresh vigour to his voice. The ethereal qualities of ‘Easy Tiger’ reflects the desires to explore other avenues, even if that requires a measure of patience, whereas the sweeping pop of ‘Man On A Wire’ reveals Dybdahl not only at his best but also suggests there is much creativity left to come.


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The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae

Warner Music Norway

Let’s get one thing straight as this is not what FLW was expecting when it came to Janelle Monae’s latest album ‘The Electric Lady’. Considering the cover art giving the impression of a Motown era Diana Ross & The Supremes, our ears were in fact treated to a glorious mix of weird and wonderful funk, pop and soul influenced songs. Early indications that this body of work was not going to be a straightforward Motown collection can be gleaned from ‘Suite IV Electric Overture’ that would grace any opening to a Bond movie, via a brief pit stop with Tarantino, with its western flavoured guitar followed by sweeping orchestral strings assuming full control. ‘Givin Em What They Love’ with its strident vocal delivery and echo beats is appropriately followed by the equally forceful ‘Q.U.E.E.N’ bringing to the fore Janelle’s desire for this latest release to reflect the strong matriarchal figures in her life and need for recognition of such women.  With various collaborations ranging from Erykah Badu to Solange lending a hand with the more direct pop/funk of ‘Electric Lady’, as well as the intriguing and often humorous interludes with DJ Crash – Crash, there is clearly much to digest due to the breadth of creativity on offer (i.e. compare ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ with ‘Look Into My Eyes’) but also lengthy running time. That said, ‘The Electric Lady’ is an audacious album that more often than not delivers in style.


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Later…When The TV Turns To Static

Glasvegas

BMG

After the mixed critical reaction that was ‘Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, Glasvegas return with third album ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’. There is a real sense of getting back to basics here, as Glasvegas swap the LA landscape of their previous recording for a return to their home roots of Glasgow. With frontman James Allan taking the helm on production duties as well, the outside world is definitely locked out for the moment. Opening song, and title track, ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’ appears to reflect the aforementioned difference of opinion regarding Glasvegas’  second effort, as James Allan sounds like a man with his tail between his legs reflecting on what might have been, only to reopen such sores during the fragile ‘Choices’. ‘All I Want Is My Baby’ is in part a stinging response to the financial greed of certain industries (take your pick) and a further realisation that the grass isn’t always greener. It remains, however, the unconventional manner in which James Allan transmits these narratives in his almost slurred Glaswegian burr that sometimes lends itself to spoken word passages – the affecting ‘I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You)’ – that captures the imagination before noting the difficult job the rest of Glasvegas have to contend with in terms of shaping their melodies to fit such awkward yarns. There was never an issue of a comeback album as ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’ is merely a continuation of the creative success of their two previous bodies of work. Welcome back Glasvegas.


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Love In The Future

John Legend

Columbia

Weighing in with a colossal 20 tracks, ‘Love In The Future’ sees the return of John Legend on prolific form. Having won at the Grammys an incredible nine times, Legend can afford himself the luxury of letting out the creative juices and coming up with such soulful gems as ‘Who Do We Think We Are’, featuring Rick Ross on dual vocal duties. The striking honesty and piano balladry of ‘All Of Me’ is exquisite and remains giddy on love with the proceeding ‘Hold On Longer’ expertly portrayed by means of its looser texture. The freeform of ‘Tomorrow’ contains elements of jazz combined with soul that really opens up when Legend confesses, “It’s our time, it’s our evening, don’t let it slip away, tomorrow’s too late” suggesting an artist clearly living in the moment and willing to take chances. ‘Love In The Future’ is an album rich in creativity and one that is not afraid to wear its heart proudly on its sleeve.


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Everything I Let Go And The Things I Refuse To

Old Gray

Dog Knights Productions

Hot on the heels of their deserved critical success for debut album ‘An Autobiography’, Old Gray decide to revisit a former release that sold-out on its first pressing due to heavy demand. ‘Everything I Let Go And The Things I Refuse To’ will see light of day once more through Dog Knights Productions. All four tracks making up this EP provides clear indications of the work that proceeded with the band’s full-length album as there are nods to Explosions In The Sky with delicate guitars ‘359 Pine’ and ‘Resonance’; the latter of which builds to a crescendo and aided by impassioned vocals as Old Gray let out their hearts the only way they know how to. Honest and worthy of your attention.


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Ghost Republic

Willard Grant Conspiracy

Loose Music

This is beautiful, beautiful music. Recorded in Massachusetts and no doubt in the wee small hours, David Michael Curry and Robert Fisher alias Willard Grant Conspiracy have crafted an album consisting of thirteen songs with the merest of instruments – viola and acoustic guitar – and sounding as if taken in one whole sitting as one can almost hear the furniture creaking. With the majority of the songs expressed in fragile hushed tones and aided by the atmospheric and deft musicianship bringing the songs to life – ‘Rattle and Hiss’ is one such example – ‘Ghost Republic’ sounds as desolate as the imagery of barren landscapes its songs reflect. There is considerable darkness penetrating throughout and evidenced by ‘The Early Hour’ as it steadily awakes from its slumber, strings tweaking and groaning, before walking out into the early morning light portrayed to great effect by a tetchy electric guitar. ‘Incident At Mono Lake’ appears to pick up the pieces where its predecessor left off, as a sprawling howl of feedback illuminates the climaxing tension. There is definite genius at work here, only in this instance it is the work of geniuses as ‘Ghost Republic’ is a dark atmospheric masterpiece.


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Round Our Way

Burning Condors

Snakehand Records

Opening in fine fashion with a buzz saw slide guitar that teeters on the edge during Marcus Thompson’s declaration, “That girl never gets what she wants” sounding equally frustrated for the protagonist’s lustful desires, London four-piece Burning Condors debut full-length album ‘Round Our Way’ continues in a similar vein as songs grapple with issues of boredom and despair associated with modern-day living. ‘Killing Time’ is the perfect execution of such frustrations as opportunities fall through the cracks and one is ‘left out in the cold’ greatly emphasised with a midpoint blues- injected guitar before turning in on itself for one final howl of desperation. Title track, ‘Round Our Way’ continues to pick away at the mundanities of modern living with some gritty guitar work before falling for the girl next door of ‘Polka Dot Girl’ and revealing the band’s penchant for punk rock. Elsewhere, ‘Love On The Rocks’ is absolutely drunk on lust while the raw blues of ‘Honey Trap’ offers a respite from the frantic indie guitar rock and instead allowing the harmonica to power this account of a complex and doomed relationship with the clue being in the opening line. It is left to ‘Twisted Kind Of Bliss’ to really emphasise the Burning Condors collectively impacted frustrations as the collapsing noise of guitars and trailing feedback during its conclusion suggest. There is no better time for Burning Condors to make their mark on an unsuspecting music world because it has been some time since bands of similar ilk have reared their heads and created the kind of wild indie rock blues of ‘Round Our Way’.


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Touch The Madness

Mickey & The Mutants

Western Star

Thanks to the good people at Western Star Records, Mickey & The Mutants ‘Touch The Madness’ arrived on the FLW desk a couple of weeks back and has been something of a revelation due to knowing very little about this band on Norwegian soil. Proclaiming ‘these ol’ bones are psychobilly old school’ contains a ring of truth as there is a definite slowing of the pulse. This ageing predicament, however, is utilised to the band’s advantage as evidenced by the dark turn that is the wonderfully titled ‘Elvirista (Queen Of The Dead)’ maintaining a steady pace throughout and interspersed with compelling drumbeats. ‘Blonde Haired Assassin’ is pale in the vocal department but more than compensated for with electrifying guitar the sort Brian Setzer would be proud of. It remains, however, the songs ‘Something Bad’s Comin’ Outa The Ground’ and spellbinding vision held within of ‘Kiss Of The Spider Woman’ that standout due to their gripping portrayal of events seen through the eyes of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits who are more than happy to whisper instructions whilst sitting pretty on either shoulder. ‘Touch The Madness’ is definitely a venture worth pursuing.


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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.


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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’.



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