Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

pt. 1 (EP)

Cal

BMG / WAS Records

Having praised the single ‘Paranoid’ from the rooftops earlier in 2017, Norwegian singer-songwriter CAL continues where the former single left off (included here as part of the EP). By adopting a new alias and setting real name Frida Amundsen on hold for the time being at least, the new direction CAL is pursuing is one largely steeped in pop music, but one that is less concerned with the frothy commercialism of the mainstream as ‘pt. 1’ represents something far more detached and isolated. Such instances can be heard during opening track ‘Charlie’ that is full of melancholy and icy beats and suffers from a heavy dose of rejection. The following ‘Fragile’ suggests comparisons with Kate Bush and Tori Amos in the vocals, and offers lines such as, “If I had a super power, I would get myself a break,” giving way to the idea that a severe breakdown in communication of the relationship kind has occurred, but at least the chorus offers some solace as it melts the senses, especially via its glorious backing vocals. ‘When I Grow Older’ is the lighter of the bunch with a far more instant and catchy appeal that provides balance to a very good EP.


Released Out now

 

Baby Come Back (Single)

BO

XOLOVEBO

Artist and pop singing sensation, BO, arrives on the scene with a brand new track ‘Baby Come Back’. With a moody and atmospheric haze hanging over this latest release, no doubt brought back from a stint in the Nevada dessert where the accompanying video was filmed, there is a real tendency to get lost in the dreamlike qualities of ‘Baby Come Back’, not simply for the aforementioned atmospheric elements, ably demonstrated by the vocal delivery as well, but as a result of the lyrics mourning the end of a close relationship. Maybe there is a chance of reconciliation for BO, but after repeat visits ‘Baby Come Back’ is all this artist will need in order to move on from this particular chapter. A surprise addition to the reviews bundle this month, ‘Baby Come Back’ is the perfect companion for the final few weeks of summer.


Released Out now

 

Here Again

A Will Away

Triple Crown Records

Grab yourself a rather large pot and throw in the ingredients of pop, punk and alternative rock with a little emo, and then stir continuously until you solidify the mixture and come up with A Will Away. Such a concoction is music to our ears because the melodic tunes, combined with raw emotions that A Will Away seem to churn out effortlessly, run aplenty throughout the band’s album ‘Here Again’. With opening song and title track ‘Here Again’ full of nostalgia that tugs at the heartstrings via its tuneful melody and Matt Carlson’s sweet and raw vocals, the band’s latest LP gets off to a perfect start. It can be said that there is a definite scent of Jimmy Eat World to a number of the tracks available here, most notably ‘Pay Raise’ (which is deserved of a wage increase such is its brilliance!) and the summery guitar sounds of ‘Agoraphobia’ where the anxieties expressed are brought out in a splendour of melodic tunefulness that then runs into a similar feat supplied by way of the vocals, only the soreness expressed is sometimes a bit more evident (see previously). There are occasions where A Will Away tend to run down the same musical avenue (‘Better Reluctant’ and ‘Well-Adjusted’), which is something Jimmy Eat World had a tendency to fall victim to, leaving one to ponder that perhaps bands of this ilk would be better served with EP only releases. As it stands, ‘Here Again’ possesses enough saving graces via several of its concluding tracks; namely the glorious ‘The Shakes’, ‘Gravity’ and ‘Into The Light’ to help weed out any familiarity felt, and therefore leave a feeling of contentment rather than abject disappointment.


Released Out now

 

DNAR (EP)

Never Train

Secret Entertainment

Recalling classic rock bands of old where the likes of Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC dominated the airwaves for a period of time, Finnish rock band Never Train revive such memories with their latest EP ‘DNAR’. Power chords are certainly alive and well throughout the three tracks on offer; expertly handled by dual guitarists Rauli Hämäläinen and Juuso Kekkonen with Kimmo Nieminen providing authentic vocals that give way to the previously mentioned rock references Never Train recall. Pick of the bunch is ‘First We Live’ that, despite its full throttle momentum, reveals much detail the further one investigates. Given the definition of “street rock” by its press release, such a description is befitting of this five piece, who sound raw around the edges as well as the finished article, therefore suggesting Never Train has the hunger and desire to go all the way, in addition to possessing the technical abilities to stay out on top.


Released Out now

 

Black Aura

Viper Arms

Concorde Music Company

Turku, Finland, is the location where you will find all-female fronted group Viper Arms and their debut album ‘Black Aura’. With the band taking inspiration from their hometown and the Aura River that divides it, Viper Arms combine a hardedge rock sound with profound lyrics reflecting feelings of despair and loneliness mixed with sleazier ingredients that make up the standard rock ‘n’ roll cocktail. However, far from this album being a clichéd affair, Viper Arms blaze a trail from the start with the driving beat and forceful vocals of lead singer Niina during ‘Time Bomb’. If that wasn’t enough to raise the hairs on the back of one’s neck, then the aforementioned vocals really dig their claws in throughout ‘Lucky 7’, puncturing the surface of its thrash laden rhythm and then continuing to hang on for dear life before hollering nearing its climax, “You’ve got the lucky seven”. Phew! It’s breath-taking stuff. The pace eases once the excellent, and certainly more melodic, ‘To The Wolves’ enters the fray, only to revert to the thunderous tempo from before with the lyrically frivolous ‘Sugar Rush’ that steamrolls by in a blur of electric guitars. Thankfully, Viper Arms understand the notion of balance when it comes to writing and recording an album because ‘Everything Nothingness’ provides such diversity with its ballad-esque qualities that also extends to the (pop) rock of ‘Black Surf’, ‘The Worst Candidate’ and reflective ‘Crossing The Border’. There is one final sting in the tail of this album however, and that arrives via the thrash rock of ‘Sightseeing To Hell’ that will leave your jaw gaping and finger poised to hit the repeat button once this song concludes. Viper Arms may have a few anxieties to deal with, but they’re certainly tackling them head on via a combined effort of steely determination and philosophical reflection that is rolled out evenly throughout the contents of ‘Black Aura’.

 


Released Out now

 

Happy People

Freedom Fuel

Secret Entertainment

For those who are familiar with the Finnish alternative-rock scene are likely to be aware of Freedom Fuel considering all three band members have appeared in other acts such as Blake, Species and Spiha. But it is the new offering from this underground rock trio called ‘Happy People’ that we are concerned with, and one that compels from start to finish via its ten tracks. Kicking things off is the wonderful (albeit brief) static crunch of guitar of ‘Leave It Behind’ that escalates into a melodic indie rock tune and fine vocals via Teemu Holttinen where the whole package is eerily close to The Call’s ‘Let The Day Begin’ from the late 80s. Following track ‘Dirt In The Ground’ is darker in comparison, and plunges to deeper depths where gothic horror is applied lightly around its edges. Solid alt-rockers continue the albums momentum via the excellent ‘Let Them Go’ and ‘Good Intentions’, only for Freedom Fuel to reveal a broader range of creativity where more arty indie-rock crosses with swamp blues, grunge and borderline sludge rock during such songs as ‘I Can’t Come’, Ghost Before Me’, ‘MOTPFE’ and ‘First Hand’. There’s definitely more mileage in this trio as indicated by the strong, and more often than not, diverse contents of ‘Happy People’ that suggests Freedom Fuel has a bright future ahead.


Released Out now

 

The Love (Single)

Howling Light

Howling Light Music

Try not to get too confused, but here’s a newish band of sorts with a singer-songwriter all the way from the land of OZ by the name of Derek Lee Goodreid, who made his way to Oslo (Norway) and started out life as Howling Light in 2016. Joining on lead guitar and banjo were local residents Torkel Ruud and violinist Tor Sivert Gunnes, only for this multicultural line-up to be completed once bassist Andrzej Barszczyk arrived from Poland, and drummer and slide guitarist Phil Perry Ohlsen from neighbouring Sweden. Rather than opting for a more familiar pop sound considering their surroundings, Howling Light look to the south of America with traditional roots sounds infiltrating their music, and clearly heard during current single ‘The Love’. Starting off in finger plucking fashion via acoustic guitar, ‘The Love’ transforms into something of a riotous affair with part-distorted vocals and a driving beat where lead guitar and violin compellingly joust for equal amounts of airtime. It’s a passionate slice of rockin’ country strands and one that is in perfect harmony with its song title, leaving Howling Light as a band worth keeping tabs on.

 


Released Out now

 

Brilliant Light

Danny & The Champions of the World

Loose Music

Enjoying what can be described as an Indian summer when it comes to their recent recorded works ‘Stay True’ (2013), What Kind Of Love (2015) and not forgetting the double live album ‘Live Champs!’ sandwiched in the middle (2014), Danny & The Champions Of The World return with a brand new album by the name of ‘Brilliant Light’. This latest addition to The Champs’ catalogue really ups their creativity levels, due to all band members receiving instructions from the ship’s captain, Danny George Wilson, to explore, experiment and collaborate in order to maximise the creative potential of all concerned. The end result is a double album (triple when taking into account the bonus disc of instrumentals) that will require repeat visits due to the sheer breadth of material on offer here. But it is also the understated feel of the majority of the contents of ‘Brilliant Light’ that will require further listening in order to really get under the skin of this epic long player. Having said that, opening song ‘Waiting For The Right Time’ offers some immediacy via its pared back Rolling Stones’ blues with added spice of Neil Young, and then followed by a sense of urgency in the rhythm of ‘Bring Me To My Knees’ that also reveals a soreness in the lead vocals, with lap steel soothing things ever so slightly. The mild soul of ‘It Hit Me’ with its jabs and swirls of Hammond organ distract from the intensity of the lyrics as such snippets reveal, “Sorry, I’d wished you’d never known me,” and “We’re out of luck and lonely.” There is a sense of the ‘personal’ infiltrating the contents of ‘Brilliant Light’, where sentiments drift off into the night air like the final trails of smoke from a campfire slowly fading (‘You’ll Remember Me’), and then followed by ‘Swift Street’ that is reflective and full of memories with Danny Wilson commenting: “Swift Street is the house where my mother grew up.” Give ‘Brilliant Light’ time and the majority of these songs will definitely find a way to win over your heart because it’s what’s known in the industry as a real grower.

 


Released 16 June

 

Orlando Bloom (Single)

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

Having entered our consciousness a couple of years ago after taking up (permanent?) residency on planet Earth, the Harvey Steel show return with their ultra-weird yet thoroughly compelling brew of blues, psychedelia and arthouse visuals via brand new offering ‘Orlando Bloom’. One can be forgiven for thinking the obvious regarding the title of said new single with the facial exterior and matching persona of “the guy next door”, yet somehow gold dust all the way from tinsel town rains down on this here parade. Open up the contents, however, of ‘Orlando Bloom’ the single and the innards are the kind you will find in any assorted box of chocolates where variety really is the key word to understanding the world these cosmic cats, the Harvey Steel show, reside in. By beginning with a sense of urgency that is relayed via a trippy jazz sound with a real sense of foreboding developing, ‘Orlando Bloom’ soon takes a multitude of avenues where pop mingles with soul, for example, to create a little boogie, and given extra buoyancy to this journey by means of brass instrumentation. The predominant lightness of tone musically provides a temporary mask to the lyrical contents, jointly penned via band leader Thomas Bergsten and fellow comrade Kristine Marie Aasvang, where there’s suggestion that ‘Orlando Bloom’ is really concerned with the flaws affecting planet Earth. It’s a fascinating ride and one that deserves to be given a fair hearing if there’s any justice left in this world.


Released Out now

 

Narrow Road Of Memories

Stiffy Jones

Sound Pollution

Adopting a more American outlook in more ways than one, Swedish export Stiffy Jones issue new album ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ via Sound Pollution Records. With a heavy dose of Springsteen’s blue collar observations, and similar in sound to the more recent Gaslight Anthem, not to mention any number of punk rock bands that heavily littered the music scene during the 90s where punk and rock music had a habit of melding tightly together, Stiffy Jones may not be reinventing the wheel but what they produce during latest album ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ is to be highly commended. Look no further than the rolling tumbling rhythm of ‘Disconnect Me’, to the boisterous chorus of ‘Once This Car Starts Moving…’, and supplemented by the contemplative and rather excellent ‘Echoes’ to grasp a good understanding of what this band is all about. Full of honest emotions and laced with driving rhythms, ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ is a welcome release in 2017.

 


Released Out now

 

Dagan I Fingertuppan (Single)

Sigrun Loe Sparboe

Grappa

It’s been a while since we last heard of Sigrun Loe Sparboe after sophomore album release ‘Vindfang’ back in 2015 that really cemented her place in the Norwegian folk scene and proved that debut album ‘Uten at du vet det’ was no one trick pony. So back with a new single and sounding fresh and ready for the next instalment in her recording career, ‘Dagan I Fingertuppan’ echoes such sentiments via its jaunty rhythm and the sweetest of vocals adding further support to the ‘carpe diem moment’ expressed at the centre of this song. If recent living has been a tad unpredictable for this Norwegian folk songstress, then ‘Dagan I Fingertuppan’ is the prefect elixir to reignite the senses and suggest that moments of true wonder are still available for those willing to believe in such things.

 


Released Out now

 

Damage and Joy

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Artificial Plastic Records

Returning after a nineteen year absence, the Reid brothers, Jim and William, re-emerge with new album ‘Damage and Joy’. With a lot of their old tricks still present in this current set (i.e. fuzzy guitars rubbing shoulders with slower acoustic numbers), ‘Damage and Joy’ gives the impression that the Reid brothers absence has been a mere few months and not the aforementioned lengthy period after 98’s ‘Munki’ album. Therefore, with the wheel failing to be reinvented with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s latest release, ‘Damage and Joy’ is almost an overview of their entire career but one that is told through two wiser (?) and definitely world-weary heads where fuzzy pop numbers replace the wails of feedback of previous JAMC albums. Early indications of where your money should be placed in terms of definite highlights include the reworked ‘All Things Must Pass’, and followed by two glorious duets ‘Song For A Secret’ (featuring Isobel Campbell) and ‘The Two Of Us’. Lighter in noise yet still likely to ruffle a few feathers with various barbs contained in its lyrics, ‘Damage and Joy’ will be familiar to longtime followers of JAMC as well as being an enticing prospect for those less familiar because it’s a solid body of work that offers a lifeline to the JAMC to fully resurrect their career.



Back To Top