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Nothing’s Changed

Rough Hands

Holy Roar Records

After their eponymously titled debut EP, Rough Hands return with five new tracks under the banner ‘Nothing’s Changed’. The title of this latest EP is not to be taken literally, considering the progression Rough Hand’s has made since their aforementioned debut offering. While any differences between these two EPs is subtle, apart from the skeletal and atmospheric instrumental that is track two, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ shows a tad more experimentation with songs given a bit more room to breathe yet still retaining the coarse and corrosive edges held in both vocals and sound. The pummelling rhythm of ‘Mind In Pieces’ is instantaneous, but where this song may have pursued a similar path to its predecessor in its entirety, it manages to shift down a gear and is all the better for it. The title track is simply immense with its dark undertones, controlled aggression and forceful guitars that eventually slides into the maelstrom of noise that is ‘Selfish Misery’ which, to Rough Hands credit, remains temporary as it reveals several different facets and a solid indication of a band truly beginning to find their feet. Overall, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ is a significant step in the right direction to a full-length player by offering genuine signs of development but without straying too far from the band’s original concepts.

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Naming your latest album ’48:13′ suggests that time is beginning to catch up with Kasabian. Not that this five piece from Leicester has anything to prove, of course, after a succession of critically well-received albums and legion of loyal supporters championing their cause, but the signs of a band struggling for fresh ideas is slowly beginning to reveal itself. This latest album, however, begins in fine fashion with the humming static of electronics and subdued fizz of guitars that is ‘(shiva)’, before flowering into the thunderous beats and tripped-out psychedelia of ‘Bumblebee’. The film score inspired entrance of ‘Stevie’ would not sound out of place in a Bond film as it eventually catches up with an exhilarating rhythm that gives a fine impression of a song moving in transit as there is a real sense of one car pursuing another, hence the Bond reference. ‘Mortis’ is a mournful and brief instrumental that directs the listener to the first lacklustre effort in the ideas department, both musically and lyrically, with ‘Doomsday’ and followed by the all too familiar ground of yet more pounding beats and boastful comments running throughout ‘Treat’. A change of tempo and style is welcomed with the intriguing ‘Glass’, that is more considered in its use of electronica and fleeting standard instrumentation but then, surprisingly, takes an even greater twist in its strategy by closing out with a spoken word passage that contains the telling line, “When the biggest criminals I ever met wore a suit and tie”. ‘Explodes’ continues the more restrained approach and owes a slight debt to Gary Numan, before returning to tried and trusted ground with the pounding ‘Eez-eh’ that skewers the usual suspects of Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and Stone Roses in one fell swoop. Not without its faults, ’48:13′ warrants enough attention for the sometimes weird and wonderful and one or two forays venturing into classic Kasabian territory. However, it’s the latter category that requires considerable tinkering if, next time around, Kasabian is to enter a whole new era.

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Norwegian Classics

Charlie Rackstead & The Sticklesbergen Ramblers

Ramalama Production

What began as a slightly unknown commodity in this neck of the woods turned into an immense listening experience with Charlie Rackstead and The Sticklesbergen Ramblers with their take on a whole host of ‘Norwegian Classics’. By interpreting a variety of Norwegian popular songs via country and bluegrass music not only gives the selected songs a fresh perspective, but more notably for the use of the English language that really breathes new life into these compositions. Take for example the attention grabbing banjo introduction of the Dumdum Boys classic ‘Splitter Pine’ that moves along at a brisk pace and really pricks up the ears with its English pronunciation of the latter word held in the song title. Elsewhere, ‘If I Could Be Your Sunshine’ possesses lovely lilting qualities musically, and is full of wishful thinking in its pursuit of the opposite sex, only to be brought back to down to earth with the realities of ‘Free Life’ that plods out a more robust country rhythm, which portrays the carefree attitude at the centre of this song to great effect, with Charlie Rackstead’s vocal shining in the spotlight as well with a brief stint yodelling, and it’s truly wonderful stuff! Clearly, Charlie Rackstead and The Sticklesbergen Ramblers have done their homework as ‘Norwegian Classics’ contains a measure of all things that often make a good album as there is sincerity, humour, curiosity (‘Cow In The Tunnel’) and of course undisputed talent all of which make ‘Norwegian Classics’ a much have item.

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The Bet

Benjamin Finger

Watery Starve

The identity of Norway’s (Frank) Benjamin Finger remains an enigma and one that is on a par with the UK’s modern street artist Banksy. Such a mysterious identity is fitting of the music this Norwegian is peddling, as it is more about electronic atmospheric soundscapes than anything singer-songwriter by way of an acoustic guitar and unkempt facial hair (although…see above regarding the latter). What the listener gets, therefore, with Benjamin Finger’s latest album release ‘The Bet’ is a collage of sounds pertaining to various moods, such as the aptly named ‘Faintheartedness’ with its fleeting rhythm providing the woozy emotions by means of stammering vocalizations and simple piano that eventually ends up chopped and sliced and left flickering in a succession of electronic bleeps and whirrs.  Imagine if you will the characteristic tender openings of guitar strings being picked of an Explosions in the Sky composition and you are somewhere close to the shimmering and waiflike ‘Rosencrans Exit’. One can extract that ‘The Bet’ is concerned with humanities inabilities to safeguard world resources, given that the majority of songs presented here possess dreamlike qualities and therefore suggesting only one likely outcome if the downward spiral persists. ‘Bad-Luck Planet’, in particular, serves as one such precursor by sounding as if it has exited one world only to find itself wedged in a completely vacuous space as illustrated by the repetitive hum of electronica. Just as ‘Nasal Breakdown’ sounds equally grounded in its tracks, the space entered is far more pleasurable considering the beautiful ethereal vocals that surround it. ‘The Bet’ is a patchwork of ideas and emotions stitched together and striving to make sense of the world by means of various electronica and occasional guidance from elements of classical music that provides no further clues to the enigma that is Benjamin Finger only that he remains in a class of his own.

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Producers Politics Passion

Martin Hagfors

Me Records

The name Martin Hagfors is one associated in Norway with a prolific work rate that has resulted in eighteen albums and a long line of song writing contributions for the likes of Askil Holm, Big Bang, Ida Jenshus, Motorpsycho, The National Bank et al. Hagfors latest release entitled ‘Producers Politics Passion’, minus the punctuation, is a match made in heaven for those who have a soft spot for indie pop music with a definite left-field approach. Having enlisted a whole host of guest musicians including such names as Anne Lise Frøkedal, Jenny Hval, Erlend Mokkelbost, Anders Tjore to name but a few, ‘Producers Politics Passion’ is as much about the ‘passions’ of these talented musicians as it is the man in the hot seat, Martin Hagfors. Beginning in fine fashion with the suggestive ‘Kinky Lovers’, due to being a likely example of a composition that a certain Brian Wilson conjures up in his dreams with its lovely warped qualities of mild electronics and vocal delivery. The following, ‘Leaning To The Left’ is open to interpretation (“I might sound out of date…”) but most likely the ‘Politics’ segment and contains some fine musicianship. The dreamlike ‘You’ve Been Replaced’ again contains many different facets when considering its overall meaning, but one clear revelation is that it is a supremely clever ditty that manages to incorporate elements of ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’ as a means to emphasise its overall message considering the redundancy in the title. There are moments of playing it straight with the easily distracted by how infectious this seductive mellow pop is with ‘Easily Distracted By Love’, until the distant chill of ‘Earl Is Gone’ brings the mood back down, but compellingly so, via some delicious vocal harmonising. ‘Producers Politics Passion’ is a ‘gammeldags’ recipe consisting of intelligent and insightful pop music with a few quirky edges, the kind of which used to be more frequently accepted by the mainstream. As it stands, Martin Hagfors and his musical associates have just produced a winning formula that demands a follow-up if ever the desire exists.

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Half Tux


Fysisk Format

Scrolling down the track listing for Haraball’s ‘Half Tux’ provides nearly a dozen reasons for not wanting to leave the house in the morning. Whether this is due to a serious condition involving paranoia and delusional episodes, or that one is slightly more cantankerous than their fellow neighbour, both reasons appear plausible once hearing the various firecrackers igniting from this second album. A distorted opening groan of guitars arouse the senses before launching into a pummelling assault of post-punk and hardcore that is ‘The House That Builds Itself’. Following on from the guitar solo that brought the former song abruptly to its knees, the rolling tumble of ‘Crazy Tram’ is equally frenetic as its opening predecessor, only allowing for a tad more air to breeze between the blistering rhythm. ‘Manchild’ offers the first inkling of a composition not willing to be constrained by any particular pattern as it has a tendency to kneejerk occasionally in different directions that allows for a little restraint and usher in some grunge to the melee. Such a description can be applied to the intriguingly titled and mischievous tendencies of ‘Sack Of Onions’ and equally curious ‘Mallcop Dungeon’; the latter song building in a crescendo of guitars and pounding drumbeats that escalates into glimpses of searing feedback before regaining its previous momentum. Despite offering a full shot of adrenalin to the system by way of ‘Half Tux’, underneath the raging emotions and often chaotic noise there exist enough subtleties to suggest that Haraball is steadily evolving into a force to be reckoned with.

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To Where We Reside


Sony Music Norway

Alida’s former single ‘Next Plane’ managed to cause a wave of enthusiasm on various radio playlists throughout Norway due to its alluring vocal and mild, atmospheric electronica that played out to a narrative full of unrequited love. The next destination for Alida is right here and now with a full-length offering, of sorts, by way of a mini-album. Arriving in two parts, which makes for a refreshing change, ‘To Where We Reside’ is the first instalment before the next chapter arrives with an equal number of tracks that will complete this concept. The previously mentioned ‘Next Plane’ is included here, and greatly complimented with the transcendent qualities of ‘Tell Me’, that provides an explanation to the visual imagery of the cover art, and perfectly constructed indie-pop of ‘Feathers’. By offering a condensed version in terms of ‘To Where We Reside’, the songs making up this mini-release should receive the care and attention they deserve, considering the exquisite and piano-led ‘I Get Lonely’ and pop dynamics of ‘Hunger’; the latter of which is the appropriate description when waiting for the next segment of this two-part series.

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Mystery Girl (Deluxe)

Roy Orbison

Sony Music CMG

As with the recent Johnny Cash discovery, another of the original Sun Records’ artists, Roy Orbison resurfaces by way of a deluxe edition of a former release with ‘Mystery Girl’. Marking its 25th anniversary in style, this new edition of ‘Mystery Girl’ includes all of the original ten tracks, but also nine previously unreleased studio works and demos. The accompanying DVD features a full-length documentary, in addition to a number of music videos that truly adds much weight to the overall quality of this reissue. Having received much critical recognition on its first outing, ‘Mystery Girl’ will no doubt revive fond memories for many Roy Orbison supporters, especially with the hit single ‘You Got It’ that has lost none of its vigour. Another facet to the appeal of Roy Orbison was the enigmatic and almost operatic delivery of his vocal that suited his often balladry style with songs such as ‘In The Real World’ and ‘A Love So Beautiful’. A welcome re-release with superb bonus material, ‘Mystery Girl’ has definitely stood the test of time and one that is still worthy of its former praise.

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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 2

Various Artists

Bear Family

The evolution of rockabilly and rockin’ sounds continues by way of Bakersfield with Bear Family’s second chapter titled, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. With in-depth liner notes and super rare photos regarding these particular artists of the 1950s and 60s and the record labels involved,  the usual care and attention from Bear Family is applied to the entire package as volume two of the Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West is on equal par with its predecessor. For example, the same quality and breadth of creativity is found throughout ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield Vol. 2’, but where this differs slightly is the evolving sound of the musicians involved, edging closer to a fuller-sounding rockabilly description, to cite one example, that is beefed up and tighter in its execution. Particular delights of this second instalment include the ever reliable Ferlin Husky with ‘I Feel Better All Over’; the ballad-esque ‘Teenage Tears’ from Cliff Crofford; the wonderful off-kilter delivery and in line with its narrative of Corky Jones’ (Buck Owens) ‘Rhythm and Booze’ and George Weston’s rockin’ ‘Hey Little Car Hop’. Special mention goes to the sublime ‘Can’t Go On’ with a vocal to melt the sternest of hearts that leaves one to ponder why the name Dallas Frazier was not exalted to greater heights despite achieving success as a songwriter for a host of artists. A superb second volume, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ is worthy of high praise indeed.

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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 1

Various Artists

Bear Family

Nothing but a safe pair of hands, Bear Family Records bring sweet, pleasurable relief with a new two-part series that focuses on ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. The first volume of Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West details a succession of artists from the 1950s and 60s from the city of Bakersfield eager to experiment with the wilder sound that was emerging at a quickening pace with rockabilly and later rock ‘n’ roll. With an abundance of independent record labels able to provide (temporary) homes for those deemed worthy enough, the more familiar names of Buck Owens (aka Corky Jones on one particular number), Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard et al are present, but also much sought after originals with the endearingly named Custer Bottoms, for example, with his ‘Stood Up Blues’ that possesses a wonderful natural quality mainly expressed through Custer’s ‘hick’ delivery  rendering the abject misery of the central figure via the opposite sex utterly convincing. Cliff Crofford’s prospects appear equally bleak with ‘There Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin To Me’ that sounds like it’s made up of a very primitive rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. Johnny Taylor certainly adopts a similar methodology with his more up-tempo version of the (still) primitive rockin’ beats by way of the superb ‘Mixed Up Rhythm & Blues’, only for Jimmy Thomason (‘Now Hear This’) and Glen Ayres – Red Simpson (‘Sweet Love’) to shake things up further with some rhythm and blues and then followed by a concoction of teen rock and boogie. The sheer breadth of styles is astounding not to mention the abundance of creativity – Joe Hall & The Corvettes ‘Bongo Beating Beatnik’ a prime example – that makes this first volume ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ a must have item.

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Rockabilly Roads 4

Various Artists

Playground Music

Fourth instalment in the Rockabilly Roads series that sees no let-up in terms of quality control with a plethora of modern-day rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll artists touting their own creative writings rather than adding a fresh spin on an old cover. The ‘jungle’ theme given to this fourth Rockabilly Roads volume is more about the red-hot electricity coursing through more or less each and every track rather than anything specific coming out of the wilderness. First indication of such a scorching atmosphere comes by way of Mike Barbwire & The Blue Ocean Orchestra with their ‘El Sótano Calling (S.O.S ROCKN’ ROLL), which is an instrumental with a Latin flavour coupled with a stinging guitar, monstrous sax and surprising turn of events with a brief yet wondrous string section midway that sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the competition to follow. After such a magnificent start, Swedish rockers and regulars to the Rockabilly Roads series, John Lindberg Trio do not let the side down by way of their usual high standards of consistently good rock ‘n’ roll with knowing pop sensibilities that is ‘Hit Me’. Where John Lindberg Trio add a modern gloss to the rockin’ revival, Ruby Ann’s ‘You Gotta Pay’ and subsequent Honeyboy Slim & the Bad Habits ‘Screamin’ Mimi Jeanie’ really drum up a sense of nostalgia with authentic takes on a 50s sound; the former a mid-tempo setter that is commanded by Ms Ann’s compelling vocal, whereas the latter is a full-blooded rocker and reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. It remains this very balancing act between replicating an inch perfect rockin’ 50s period sound, and one that stems from the same origins but with various additional elements providing a more up-to-date feel (20th Flight Rockers, The Caezars, Reverend Horton Heat), which is why this rockabilly series truly works.

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Fire Dance With Me

Charlotte Qvale

Stella Music / Sony Music Norway

The name Charlotte Qvale has been making great strides after recognition from several Norwegian radio stations that saw Qvale’s hit song ‘The Fire’ a longstanding feature when it came to radio playlists. Fast forward to the present and Charlotte Qvale is now ready for her full-length debut entrance with ‘Fire Dance With Me’. The impact of this first offering is immediate with vigorous backing beats and Qvale’s calm vocal detailing the differences that finally proved too much for one particular relationship during ‘The Beginning Of The End’. Comparisons will no doubt feature Florence + the Machine considering the influence of indie, folk and dance music running throughout, especially upon hearing the lovely rising arc of ‘Love You Out Loud’ and breezy ‘Kiss The Girls’. There is a slight quirky edge to the rather engaging ‘City Lights’ that brings together a bristling rhythm full of acoustic guitar and stabs of brass instrumentation and reminiscent of Susanne Vega and a closer to home, Ephemera. While such associations are to be welcomed considering the undoubtable talent and confidence evident here, the next outing for Charlotte Qvale makes for an interesting prospect because it will be one that requires a slight deviation due to an overall feeling of familiarity with ‘Fire Dance With Me’.

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