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Released 11 March

 

Grrr

Cloroform

Kaada Recordings

After what amounted to six years in hibernation, Norwegian trio, Cloroform, finally reared their collective heads with the first signs of their comeback with the single ‘Beach Buns’. The truth is that all three band members – comprising of John Erik Kaada, Børge Fjordheim and Øyvind Storesund – had been occupied with other activities involving solo projects, film compositions and moonlighting for other artists such as Kaisers Orchestra, Morten Abel and Sivert Høyem. Whilst the cheekily named and out-of-season single, ‘Beach Buns’ delivered a classic stoner riff, the song also revealed Cloroform’s split personality where eccentricity often performs a vital role in their creative output. Such unpredictability is rife throughout ‘Grrr’ where sample-heavy tracks such as ‘Lakris’ borrow from 70s and 80s pop and soul music, and then swing through manic electro lust numbers (‘Squeeze’), only to slow the pace via the atmospheric instrumental, ‘Pelican Sunrise’. There are a handful of bands that one could draw comparisons with when it comes to Cloroform, but that is mainly down to the unconventional nature of their song writing rather than sounding directly like any of these artists. With a reliance on cutting and pasting their ideas and sounds together from previous recorded works, Cloroform has turned this into an art form where you may be convinced you just heard a reference to U2’s ‘Ultra Violet (Light My Way)’ during the Norwegian’s ‘Walk, Don’t Walk’, but everything is just so skewered and then patched up that it’s difficult to really know for sure. Either way ‘Grrr’ is a clear reminder that music is a medium that deserves to be experimented with, and this is something Cloroform revel in, as well as injecting their songs with a strong sense of humour.


Released Out now

 

We Were Closer To The End

Kari Harneshaug

NoForever

Quite possibly new to a lot of music lovers residing on the outskirts of Scandinavia, but Norwegian singer-songwriter Kari Harneshaug has been plying her musical trade in these very parts for some considerable time. Back with a new album ‘We Were Closer To The End’ is actually Kari Harneshaug’s third long player. With the recording of the album being guided by producer Karl Gøsta Klaseie, the actual recording sessions involved a novel idea by allowing those totally smitten with the song writing of Kari Harneshaug a unique opportunity to watch this talent at work in the recording studio. Whether such company inspired the vocal performances found on the latest record is only known to Kari Harneshaug herself, but what the listener is treated to here is an at times hauntingly beautiful (there we go again!) set of vocal performances, with previous single ‘Wild One’ being the benchmark and ‘The Signs Have Been Telling Me’ not too far behind, and, in other places, a different turn with the influence of PJ Harvey via ‘For Our Love’ and ditto ‘The Great Sea’. But there are other ideas at work, with the spacious ‘When The Days Creep Up On Us’ that fills its gaps with light electronics and standard instrumentation that plays out a patient rhythm. The driftwood expression of the album’s title track is suggestive of a former relationship, and expertly delivered by all musicians involved. The name Kari Harneshaug should be more familiar once the word spreads of the stirring and melancholic beauty of ‘We Were Closer To The End’ reaches further afield because it really is rather magnificent.


Released 28 March

 

Rip Me Apart (Single)

Scout Killers

Untitled

After last year’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ EP, Scout Killers roll out their alternative-rock sound by way of new release ‘Rip Me Apart’. The formula is changed in terms of the format as ‘Rip Me Apart’ is issued as a single only, with more plans to continue this trend with a series of single releases. Prior to the official release of this new single from Scout Killers was the filmed footage of the band performing a number of songs including a stripped back version of ‘Rip Me Apart’. With that first taste of ‘Rip Me Apart’ still fresh in the mind, the version committed to tape is beefed up somewhat, and reveals a band clearly growing in stature. The tell-tale signs are the various nuances that can be heard whether a slight dash of Tom Morrello’s guitar or the passion and drive of a Pearl Jam track during ‘Rip Me Apart’. But the Scout Killers is definitely delivering their own signature as well, with the vocals of Scott Cox maturing nicely by revealing deeper and richer qualities, in addition to this five piece willing to explore all corners of this latest single by giving the impression of stretching its sound in places. This is a band that really cares about its craft as you can hear it in both the instruments and vocals, and this is why Scout Killers matter so much.


Released 11 March

 

Break

Slingshot Dakota

Topshelf Records

What sounds like a full band is actually the result of two individuals, Carly Comando and Tom Patterson, who knit together a sound that can best be described as poppy indie rock, but one that reveals associations to the looser and rougher edges of a punk and hardcore basement scene. Trading under the name Slingshot Dakota, the duo exert their experience via an 88-key digital piano that makes use of multiple effects pedals, and then backed by the drums of Tom Patterson, to come up with their first new material since 2012’s ‘Dark Hearts’. With Carly Comando controlling the electronics and supplying the vocals, the noise emanating from Slingshot Dakota’s new long player is highly impressive, especially when hearing the scorched (guitar) lines and rumbling backbeat of opening song, ‘You’. The rhythm driving ‘Monocacy’ is dark and rich to the point of almost drowning Comando’s vocals, but in the same instance shows the strengths of this duo lying in their musicality, which they certainly turn to their advantage here. Any imperfections held in the vocal however, which is kind of the point considering the duo’s backgrounds to the formerly mentioned punk scenes, soon disappears once ‘Stay’ enters the fray and reveals a singer in full command on a somewhat melancholic note. Sadness really can be therapeutic! The distorted electronics and pounding drums of ‘Paycheck’ is another awe-inspiring effort in sound, and no doubt will be an absolute killer live. But if you’re looking to get even closer to the innermost feelings of Slingshot Dakota, then the sore and stripped back ‘Too Much’ is as close as it gets, and further reason why the album ‘Break’ deserves every chance of reaching a wider audience.


Released 11 March

 

The Comfort & The Confusion EP

Merit

Boom Blast Records

Having formed in the spring of 2012, Phoenix, AZ, emo outfit Merit are ready with their new EP by the name of ‘The Comfort And The Confusion’ on North East (UK) record label Boom Blast. This latest EP arrives after last year’s ‘The End Of Everything’, also released on Boom Blast Records, and sees the band grappling with a few emotions, especially when what once was a new experience (i.e. musically) suddenly seems to be hitting an awkward patch when familiarity starts to take hold. In order to work through these feelings, Merit offer such tracks as ‘All These Haunting Things Part Two’ that possesses a languid feel in terms of its rhythm, and with the band paying references to other acts such as The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World, for example, with the similar tempo and fuzzy, melodic warmth of ‘Take Care’. With plans underway to record their debut album this year, as well as tour dates arranged, Merit look set to carve out a bigger name for themselves in 2016.


Released Out now

 

Change (Single)

Hanne Fjeldstad

Safe & Sound Recordings

After an impressive start with the first in a series of four singles last year with ‘Make A Call’, Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Fjeldstad returns with song number two, ‘Change’. The new single sees Fjeldsatd partnering Kenneth Ishak once more, who guides the production as well as filling in the drum, piano, bass and guitar parts when required. With her inspirations stemming from Lykke Li to John Lennon and drawing on the genres of predominantly folk and Americana, Fjeldstad conjures up a sound from the past but makes it thoroughly contemporary. Part of this modern sheen lends itself to an indie sound, and one thinks of other Scandinavian contemporaries Anna Ternheim, Ane Brun and American-Norwegian Karen Jo Fields, with all having blended indie with folk and country music to great effect. With ‘Change’ being something desired by Fjeldstad and all that she got in return, it certainly makes for a fine exchange. By containing a fuller and more confident sound, largely carried by Fjeldstad’s extremely compelling vocal and expert musicianship, ‘Change’ has a sometimes lively edge to its rhythm, and one that receives a stinging response nearing its end via the guitar. Keep the wheels rolling as Hanne Fjeldstad’s creative momentum is gaining serious pace with latest single ‘Change’.


Released Out now

 

Blinded

Ask

Karsten Records

Slipping under the radar at FLW, and therefore being a late discovery, is the album ‘Blinded’ by Norwegians, Ask. Assembled together with the softest of touches and built around the vocals of Andrea Ettestøl and Simen Lyngroth,  ‘Blinded’ often produces a sound that is pared back and probably best described as indie folk with a few splashes of pop influences here and there. Overall, such an approach works wonders as ‘Wintersong’ illustrates via its acoustic and electric guitars and female – male vocal exchanges, which gradually lead the song to a dramatic conclusion. From such an impressive opening, Ask refrain from repeating the same moves by adding the complex ‘Deny’ to the menu; a song full of varying shades of detail but managing to sound effortless in places as well as finding the time to add a bit of brass instrumentation, which is a very nice touch indeed. ‘Everybody Knows Your Name’ sees Simen Lyngroth take up the initial baton before linking up with Andrea Ettestøl  to deliver a fine combined effort, and one that is accompanied by a brushed feel to the instrumentation that trips along wistfully. The acoustic folk of ‘You And Me’ is full of intimate moments, and then followed by the eccentric tone of ‘Medium Street’ wonderfully portrayed by a fascinating narrative involving life choices or lack of them. ‘Blinded’ is full of such details that can weigh heavy at times just as easily as they can sound light and fleeting on other occasions. It’s honest and it’s real and it’s packed with creative endeavour, Ask is definitely on to something good via their album ‘Blinded’.


Released Out now

 

Marathon

Francis

Strangers Candy

“We’ve got to reach for the stars” is something a few of us aspire to. Francis is no exception from this notion, judging by the contents of such numbers as ‘Bridges’. Overall, there is a feeling that the band’s bridges have been (slightly) burnt considering the undercurrent of melancholy of this particular track, in addition to being faint in the vocals of Petra Mases, who possesses a languid feel to her voice yet never fails to capture the sentiments of the majority of the songs here. In fact, it really is a thing of beauty, and brings to mind 80s indie eccentrics Colourbox for example. There are bright edges to some of the offerings to be heard on ‘Marathon’, with neat flicks and chimes of the guitars during such songs as ‘Horses’ and ‘Howl’. The album’s lead track, ‘Marathon’, is pensive in its approach yet short in duration. The proceeding ‘Turning A Hand’ follows a similar approach and possesses some lovely moments via the guitars and vocals once more, where rays of sunlight shine from the guitars that was distinctively Cocteau Twins back in the day. The contemplative tone continues with the sublime, ‘Set Easy’ that picks away at the song’s narrative via the vocals and guitars and noticeable drum pattern. Patience may be required from some quarters experiencing ‘Marathon’ for the first time, considering the often brooding nature of the majority of its contents, but for those willing to remain the distance you will be greatly rewarded.


Released Out now

 

Contritions

Cult of the Lost Cause

Sailor Records

Stemming from Denver, Colorado, Cult of the Lost Cause is a powerhouse of post-metal sound skilfully bolted together by the trio of Mike (drums), Thom (bass) and Mhyk (guitar). The band’s efforts can be heard during latest album ‘Contritions’ that contains former post-rock instrumental single, ‘The Drowned God’. It’s this former single that really sets the tone for this new long player, where instruments give various expressions of soaring and dipping with numerous gear changes that crunch and grind along the way. With ‘Contritions’ being recorded in the band’s home city of Denver at Flatline Audio with producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Khemmis, Native Daughters), the attention to detail is to be admired. From the tumbling drumroll and short instrumental injection that is ‘All Those In Favour’, and then flipping in an instant to its rival in opposition, ‘All Those Opposed’, with its guitar heavy (not in all places) and overall expansive sound, Cult of the Lost Cause clearly understand the art of expressing their sentiments through their instruments. Rather than being lumped in with an Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You, for example, the three-piece from Denver offer an altogether more caustic and thicker sound, while still containing the occasional sweeter edges held in ‘Hessian Crucible’ and ‘The Cloud Collector’. A true delight and emotionally stirring via its instrumentation, Cult of the Lost Cause deliver in style via ‘Contritions’.


Released 5 February

 

Hooked!

The Cheaters

Artwood Records

It was only just over a year ago that Vestfold three-piece, The Cheaters, picked up their prize gong for best rock album under the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys with the Spellemannprisen. With that award sitting proudly on The Cheaters’ mantelpiece at home for their ‘Rites of Spring’ long player, the indie-rock trio were soon spurred into action with new songs arriving thick and fast in preparation for their third album. ‘Hooked’ is the end result and sees the light of day on the band’s own label Artwood Records. With the previous album’s formula proving effective (see earlier), The Cheaters called on the production skills of Erlend Mokkelbost (JR Ewing, Montée) to aid the band in their quest to capture the sounds they were after. With elements of post-punk combined with indie rock, ‘Hooked’ throws up an energetic ride packed with tight rhythms and full of melodic touches, the kind of which were present during recent single ‘Diamond Light’. Elsewhere, the drumroll intro of ‘Voodoo Eyes’ sets up a dark and jagged canvass of sounds with lead singer Øyvind Skarsbø sounding convincingly woozy with his words. The actual track ‘Hooked!’ is a spikey little number, full of attitude and perfectly expressed via a clapping beat and serrated guitar. A similar approach can be heard during ‘Just Like You’, only there is a bit more chaos suggested here, as demonstrated by the clash of instruments and (wonderfully) bitter tone of the lyrics, that not everything is so harmonious at home. With an impending European tour on the horizon, The Cheaters are certainly set to go with these firecrackers making up the contents of ‘Hooked!’ because it shows a band at the very top of their game with no hint of faltering. A class act indeed!


Released 5 February

 

Nothing Out Of Nothing

Slap Betty

Inverse Records / Secret Entertainment

The opening segment of the press release that accompanied Finnish rockers Slap Betty’s new album ‘Nothing Out of Nothing’ caused a great deal of mirth at Famous Last Words (FLW). The source of such merriment was, ‘The band that often cuts electricity returns with their second album’ which has affected other artists such as Backyard Babies, not to mention a few festival appearances as well! With a sound that’s too hot to handle therefore, Slap Betty deliver an honest set of rock tunes mixed with fragments of punk and even older rock and roll. Such examples of this can be found right at the doorstep of this new release with the socio-political commentary of ‘World We Leave Behind’ that is equally tough and gritty in sound, and complete with a persuasive vocal which gives the impression of having been left to soak overnight in bourbon. With the band being made up of Teemu (vocal/guitar), Juuso (drums), Juhana (guitar) and Antti (bass), Slap Betty continue to deliver rhythmically tight numbers with ‘List Of The Things I Hate’ and ‘Fill My Cup’. It’s not all foot to the floor stompers, however, as Slap Betty tone things down a bit with the melodic tones of ‘Perfect’, and reflective stance of closing track ‘Shame’. Whilst their activities outside of the recording studio might be prone to accidents, there is nothing calamitous about ‘Nothing Out Of Nothing’ as Slap Betty pull out all the stops to ensure that album number two is a roaring success.


Released 5 February

 

It Can Only Be So Good (Single)

Sancho Panzer

Untitled

Fishing exercises are all well and good, but when listening to Exeter based Sancho Panzer’s new single, there might be something worthwhile here. ‘It Can Only Be So Good’ falls into the category of post-punk yet has an air of straight rock about it as well. With the band having won Rocksound’s Battle of the Bands back in 2007, it has taken some time for the band to hone their sound to the point where debut albums are fully realised. Such a feat has been achieved by Sancho Panzer as the band steady themselves for their first album release this spring, with the title set in place, ‘Your Own Accord’. Back to the single as the self-belief is definitely evident as ‘It Can Only Be Good’ pulls away at some speed, and really carried by some excellent guitar work and charming team vocals that are enough to warrant further investigation when that debut album arrives.



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