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El Toro

Formed in 1986 and hailing from Spain, Brioles is a trio comprising of brothers, Jorge and Daniel Nunes, and odd man out, Josep Maria. Considering the length of time this band has been performing, the comparisons associated with Brioles have been numerous, with the core of their music coming from 50s rock ‘n’ roll, but with definite strands of neo-rockabilly, psychobilly and topped off with a punk rock spirit. Brioles themselves seem to prefer the compromise of Briobilly, which makes itself known once the engine starts running and ‘So Mean’ clatters into life and rattles along at a frantic pace. ‘Yes, No’ provides the first inkling of a taste for punk rock, with its rough and ready approach suggesting a live take as far the recording goes. ‘Boppin’, however, finds Brioles in a reflective stance, with the isolated ‘bop’ of the character at the heart of this song doing his best to stave off the real feelings inside, “I do my best pretending that I don’t love you” with Brioles expertly capturing the mood with a mid-tempo beat. The clue is most definitely in the title regarding ‘Ready To Cha-Cha-Cha’ as it signals it’s ready for anything, especially once its brisk rhythm, partly wrapped around a repetitive guitar pattern, will have you firing on all cylinders in no time. The psychobilly tag looms large above the doorway of ‘Full Moon Spell’, as the song casts a shadow (in a good way!) over proceedings and offers another angle for Brioles to pursue because it’s definitely among the highlights here. With so much zest remaining in their creative tank, Brioles has every reason to stick around and maintain the bop because this is one floor worth hitting on.

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It’s A Scream!!!

Various Artists

El Toro

Arriving just in time before the next venture under the sun and on the sands of Calella, Spain is a compilation of dancefloor fillers personally handpicked from last year’s top DJs spinning the decks at the Screamin’ Festival. With eight DJs selecting three songs apiece, and a remit to provide a reason to shake those limbs, the songs chosen provide a breadth of rockin’ originals. There is no favouritism here as the choice cuts selected from each and every DJ is of the highest order but, unfortunately, there is simply not the time and space to detail each and every entry. The choice of rhythm and blues seems to slightly outweigh the straight rockabilly or rock ‘n’ roll songs and perhaps understandable when the inclusion of the unfortunately named Joseph ‘Mr Google Eyes’ August induces a bout of hip swinging with the rhythm and blues shake of ‘Rough & Rocky Road’, to the “interpret as you will” moniker of Bull Moose Jackson whose forceful rhythm and blues commands the upmost respect. Equally deserving of such recognition is the rhythm and blues rocker ‘If It’s News To You’ courtesy of Little Esther, which is nicely complemented by the compelling vocal delivery of Solomon Burke’s ‘Be Bop Grandma’ that starts off as a velvety tone and ends up almost a full-blown holler by its conclusion. The inclusion of ‘Hoots Mon’ by Lord Rockingham’s XI is a misfire and one that doesn’t rest easy with the rest of this compilation, but several remedies soon arrive in the shape of Ricky Nelson’s excellent rendition of the Baker Knight composition ‘I Wanna Be Loved’; the manic rock of Ralph Nielsen & The Chancellors’ ‘Scream’, and the primitive beats and humorous take of ‘Leopard Man’. ‘It’s A Scream!!! Original Soundtrack of The Screamin’ Festival’ houses enough rockin’ delights to keep your ears engaged and dance shoes moving until the next Screamin’ Festival arrives this year. What a wonderful addition this compilation is, and a great advert for a well-regarded music festival. Viva El Toro!

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Rockabilly Girl

Manny Jr. And The Cyclones

El Toro

Upon first inspection of Manny Jr. And The Cyclones’ ‘Rockabilly Girl’, one item that stood out from the rest was the slightly unconventional vocal, which has a way of sounding a bit off the pace (‘Baby I Don’t Care’) but, after repeat listens, the realisation dawns that what may sound like slight imperfections at first, are actually genuine characteristics that Manny Jr himself brings to these songs. With the jury previously undecided as to the fate of this overall collection, this clever four-piece band from Canada conjure up some rockabilly magic that is brimming with character and bustling with energy. Nowhere is this best served than the opening song ‘Flathead Coupe’ with its overstated deep vocal set to a chuggin’ rhythm supplied by The Cyclones and then, much later, by the late-night ambience created by the slower tempo and naturally raw vocals of ‘Stripper Baby’. This album would not be complete without some wild rockin’, which comes via the album’s title track and other examples such as ‘I Got A Date With You’ and even tougher guitars and vocal of ‘Mean, Mean Baby’. Gene Vincent proves to be something of an inspiration for Manny Jr. And The Cyclones, identified from the band’s artwork and tripping down through songs such as ‘Tougher Than That’ as well as cropping up in various other segments. The musicianship of Manny Jr. And The Cyclones is exemplary throughout, with fine examples coming by way of two instrumentals – the strollin’ ‘Just My Kind of Girl’ and tight rhythm of ‘Mr Eddie’ (listen out for that incredible guitar break folks!). Patience was definitely a virtue when it came to ‘Rockabilly Girl’ because without a second fair hearing, the genius, intelligence and talent of this Canadian rockabilly band would have been a loss of great proportions.

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Wet Side Stories

Jaguar & The Savanas

El Toro

El Toro Records is really turning up the heat with latest release from Jaguar & The Savanas with its occasionally wild, but more often controlled ride of surf-inspired instrumentals. Coming equipped with the self-proclamation of ‘Dedicated to all obscure surf bands like us’, Jaguar & The Savanas is probably under the illusion that their music is restricted to a limited audience, which may have been the case prior to the official launch of ‘Wet Side Stories’, but no doubt the tide has turned in their favour with the eight tracks complied here because there is simply no resistance against the infectious rhythms on offer. By creating a certain amount of mystery regarding the band – the comic book imagery for starters, as well as adopting the title of a popular musical and renaming it with a suggestive and insalubrious substitute – is the stuff rock ‘n’ roll was designed for, and something Jaguar & The Savanas certainly make the most of during their brief stay via ‘Wet Side Stories’. The impact of ‘The Ride of May Gray’ is immediate with its tough and gritty rhythm coming by way of some Dick Dale inspired surf guitar, which happens to follow suit with the equally engrossing ‘Castaway’. There is a measured tempo to ‘After The Ray Storm’, appropriately setting the mood for this song as there appears to be a genuine amount of contemplation occurring before finding its answer via the strolling beat of ‘Gator Rescue’. Such variations in style and pace is the key to Jaguar & The Savanas longevity because as it stands, ‘Wet Side Stories’ is a wonderfully  executed series of instrumentals that fit their billing accurately by maintaining a sense of ambiguity and level of excitement that never outstay their welcome.

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The Old Bridge

Bluegrass Stuff

El Toro

Not just a staple of the American musical diet these days as bluegrass, and all of its associated traditions, appears to be increasing in popularity in various other countries. When it comes to Bluegrass Stuff, Italy is the location for the traditional bluegrass music making up their album, ‘The Old Bridge’.  Any suggestions of an unpremeditated meeting of the minds before laying down the tracks leading to the band’s album are likely to be unfounded considering the level of detail given to this long player, but that doesn’t stop ‘The Old Bridge’ from sounding as if it was freshly baked in the last hour or so, such is the general feeling of spontaneity generated here. Recorded and mixed by Bluegrass Stuff’s very own Massimo Gatti (mandolin/vocals) ‘The Old Bridge’ gets into its stride from the off with a succession of up-tempo numbers comprising of fiddle, banjo, upright bass, mandolin and acoustic guitar. Despite the lively introduction to ‘The Old Bridge’, the mood is somewhat downbeat with unrequited love surfacing on a few occasions with ‘Hurt And Feeling Sad’, ‘Leavin’ Me Behind’ and, in particular, the deep frustrations expressed during ‘Send Me Your Address From Heaven’  being the pick of a very good crop. With a considerable amount of the songs self-penned by band members Ruben Minuto, Matteo Ringressi and the previously mentioned Massimo Gatti and then balanced with a selection of standards, ‘The Old Bridge’ is really worth paying a visit and setting aside some time because you will not be disappointed with such pickin’ delights as ‘Once In A While’ or the yodelling vocalisations of ‘My Swiss Mountain Lullaby’ to realise that you’re in the company of some genuinely wonderful talent.

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Losing All My Friends (EP)

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Not to be dissuaded by the Metal connotations immediately implied by their moniker, Monster Jaw is, in fact, a far closer associate to the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle during the 90s, and even closer to home psychedelic rock of the same time period. Having impressed greatly with their first effort ‘Get A Tattoo’, Monster Jaw decided to team up with Belgian producer Wes Maebe (The Libertines, Paul Rogers, Roger Waters and Robert Plant) once again for their current EP. The end results see Monster Jaw progress quite considerably with a tighter edge to their overall compositions and with any excesses well and truly trimmed. Such an example can be ascertained from opener ‘Losing All Friends (Radio Edit)’ with its lively yet slightly fuzzy-edged guitars setting the pace, and built around a catchy chorus bemoaning the gradual departure of one’s comrades at the expense of a close relationship. Running adjacent to this, in terms of the quality stakes, with its direct rhythm and smatterings of psychedelic indie rock inducing a compelling high via its chorus, is the quite magnificent ‘Low’. Thankfully, the pleasure ride is not ready to cease just yet as the double helping of Jesus & Mary Chain, who happened to inspire the sounds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, can be heard with ‘Lidocaine’ and intriguing ‘Do It Gay, Do It Straight’. ‘Losing All My Friends’ EP is the sound of a band edging ever closer to a creative understanding that was outlined in the blueprints when the trio of Mik Davis, John Bradford and Neil Short decided to pursue this venture. If Monster Jaw maintain their current trajectory, then their debut album will be one not to miss out on.

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Still Undead

The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters

Inverse Records

Harking back to a 70s era when rock music was truly free, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters revive such memories via their debut album release ‘Still Undead’. First indication of such linkages to music’s past is the manner in which ‘Still Undead’ was recorded, by using methods including portable studios often in various locations out on the road when touring. More obvious signs, however, exist in the band’s actual sound consisting of mild, loose rock and rounded off with some mystical song titles that leave one thinking of numerous bands from that particular era. With the location of Finland housing the songs making up ‘Still Undead’, it’s America which provides the inspiration as The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters create a number of songs full of catchy choruses or, alternatively, more drawn out tracks such as the ‘K-Town River Banks’ with its keyboard and guitar riffs towing this along admirably. Lead vocalist and founder, Markku Pihlaja, provides a slightly gruff edge to the songs and remains relatively calm throughout, without ever resorting to any form of histrionics in order to get the messages across. Such examples can be found with the social conscience that is ‘Cry For The Ocean’ where both band and singer go about their business in an unfussy manner yet the song still manages to seep under one’s skin with seemingly very little effort at all. This is one of the aspects that make ‘Still Undead’ an appealing album because the majority of its contents will catch you unaware due to a certain amount of subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. For example, the natural aspects of the vocal and engaging chorus of ‘Soulseeker’ or the travelling notion via its rhythm given to ‘Giants’, which bides its time before hitting its soaring chorus, are two such examples. Given time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters can certainly carve out a name for themselves beyond their native Finland by transmitting ‘Still Undead’ to an America audience where it should find a welcoming home considering its affiliations with American 70’s rock.

Released 11 February


Den Morronen


Sony Music Norway

Regarded as one of Sweden’s most important artists, Thåström is primed with new album ‘Den Morronen’. Following on from his last excursion, that was the rather successful ‘Beväpna Dig Med Vingar’, this latest release follows in similar footsteps with a considerable amount of reflective and darkened tales set to an electronic musical backdrop. Made up of nine tracks, ‘Den Morronen’ was produced in a combined effort by Thåström, Niklas Hellberg and Ulf Ivarsson, with fellow musicians Pelle Ossler, Conny Nimmersjö and Anders Hernestam coming on board to help realise the album’s contents, which were recorded in the locations of Berlin, Stockholm and Karlstad, it soon becomes clear that much effort has gone into this latest album. Kicking things off with the dour beat of ‘Gräsfläckar’ and proceeding along the same lines with the album’s title track, Thåström illuminates such dark tales with his poetic way with words, that are often expressed in a croaked manner and has an ability to sound world-weary without necessarily meaning so. It’s the attention to detail of these tales, however, that compels best of all, with the rattling of everyday life – surface noise as a certain Mr Peel referred to – in the background of the passionate ‘Ner Mot Terminanlen’; funeral march feel to ‘Kom Med Mig’ and the unfolding drama of ‘Alltid Va På Väg’ that will see the name Thåström continue to be highly regarded in his homeland but, hopefully, elsewhere as well because ‘Den Morronen’ is deserving of a much broader audience.

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Keep Forever (single)


Sony Music Norway

Biding her time and taking the old-fashioned route to possible future glories is Norwegian singer-songwriter Frøder. The less is more paradigm certainly works here as Frøder is steadily building her way to recognition in her own country by a succession of single releases with ‘Keep Forever’ being the latest addition. By adopting this patient approach seems to be working as the Bergen-based artist has received substantial airplay for previous singles – ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘Over The Sea’ – and recently Spotify selected Frøder as a name to watch in 2015 via their ‘Spotlight Artists’ category. The patient approach and gradual progression in terms of her work can definitely be heard in latest single ‘Keep Forever’, as it is by far Frøder’s most memorable effort for its effective use of keys that joyously tingle under the skin and then hold back to allow the vocal to express itself. If Frøder continues such an approach to her song writing, then the full-length album should be something truly worth waiting for when that time duly arrives.

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True Love Highway

The Shadowmen

Rhythm Bomb

From the high-altitude city of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes a rockabilly sound by way of The Shadowmen. Composed of sixteen tracks, ‘True Love Highway’ possesses a great deal of talent and one that is not shy when it comes to letting the creative strings fly. Such evidence can be gleaned from the real zip and zest of ‘Revenoor Man’ with its interesting choice of subject matter referring to the prohibition of a certain substance brewed locally. Elsewhere, The Shadowmen turn in genuine slices of 50s rockabilly with such examples as the magnificent ‘Ain’t That A Dilly’ and equally convincing ‘Oh Sally’. There is great guitar work punctuating throughout this album whether spiralling down the scales during the introduction of ‘Sleep Rock – A –Roll Rock – A – Baby’ or dominating the tempo of laidback, ‘True Love Highway’. This, however, is but one component which makes ‘True Love Highway’ the album it is, whereby this five piece manage to make things sound simple when, in fact, there are many subtle layers lurking beneath the surface and where their true craft lies. A clever album and one that will have you glued to its contents from the off, The Shadowmen has provided a suitable ally to accompany the trip along ‘True Love Highway’.

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Ringer I Vatn

Kjell Reianes

CMM Music

Despite earning a living as an architect, the name Kjell Reianes is associated with music in his native Norway due to a long-held ambition to break into an otherwise competitive market. The breakthrough arrived in 2011, at the ripe old age of sixty-one, with the appropriately titled ‘Aldri For Seint’ (‘Never Too Late’). Significant to this breakthrough was the start of a working relationship with Kaizers Orchestra’s Janove Ottesen, who was responsible for arranging and producing Reianes’ debut offering. Sixty solo gigs later, and various collaborations with numerous artists, Kjell Reianes made the transition from tinkering away with his musical compositions in his spare time, to a full-time commitment, which has resulted in a second album, ‘Ringer I Vatn’. The aforementioned working partnership with Janove Ottesen was reignited for this second outing, with Ottesen taking up production duties once more, in addition to a select few musicians – Ola Kvernberg, Mads Falck Berven, Jarle Vespestad and Eirik Are Oanes Anderssen – being added to the ranks in order to fully realise the ideas behind ‘Ringer I Vatn’. First impressions is that such qualified experience really lends itself to Kjell Reianes latest release, with opening number ‘Lukk Opp Ditt Øye’ sounding as if it was recorded in one take, where instruments are still in the process of warming up before eventually proceeding ahead. There is a pared-back sound to the majority of this latest work, with mainly acoustic instrumentation providing the rhythms to Reianes reflective lyrics where songs such as ‘Bare Ein Gang Te’ and ‘Evig Din’ would not be out of place on a busy side street populated with cafés  somewhere in Paris. Keys are added to the duo of ‘Virvelvind’ and ‘Bossanova’,   which gives the former song a slightly quirky feel whereas the latter is light and breezy. Reianes engaging dialect really captures the sentiment at the heart of ‘Du E Min Eine’ to great effect, and is but one reason why the breakthrough eventually had to happen for this wonderful talent.

Released Out now


I See You (single)


Propeller Recordings

Not one to rest easy on her laurels, Anne Lise Frøkedal makes a welcome return, but this time in the role of a solo artist rather than her customary duties with Harrys Gym and I Was A King. By trimming her moniker to the more manageable Frøkedal, the decision to embark on this current project alone, seems to work dividends as it throws up another dimension to her song writing where only the use of acoustic instrumentation is used for first single, ‘I See You’. By opting for such a route musically, there is a notable difference in sound where a strong folk presence is audible as the song rolls out its rhythm in unison with a compelling vocal that doesn’t have to try too hard to weave its magic such is its natural appeal. If the same qualities can be transferred to the forthcoming long player, then Frøkedal has another serious project to pursue long term, and one to rival the other two major creative pursuits in her life.

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