Album Reviews

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Released Out now

 

Aloha

Surfin' Gorillas

Rhythm Bomb

Surfing the waves for another outing is the Surfin Gorillas and their current album ‘Aloha’. What the listener gets is a track list of largely rip-roaring surfin’ instrumentals consisting of original compositions and covers. The difference here is that ‘Aloha’ introduces vocals on a few of the tracks, and in the process reveals another dimension to the band. Kicking things off is the excellent Dick Dale inspired ‘Riptide Surfer’, with the Surfin’ Gorillas very own guitarist Andy Wren being responsible for this particular track. From there on, the tracks range from the well-known ‘Move It Baby’, to the energised version of Curtis Knight & the Squires (featuring Jimi Hendrix) ‘Hornet’s Nest’. The song writing skills of Andy Wren pop up again for the lively and infectious ‘Beach Party’, before more original compositions crop up via drummer Gary Griffin with the speedy rhythm of ‘Surfin’ Crazy’ and title track, ‘Aloha’, that is particularly memorable for some fine sax via Clive Osborne. Totalling fifteen tracks, there is plenty of old school surfin’ sounds to take in and enjoy because there is far more on the up here than on the down.


Released 15 April

 

Strays

Womack

Secret Entertainment

Located in Forssa, Finland, you will find a four-piece band by the name of Womack. Rather than this being a new project, Womack has been in existence since 2010, with one EP, ‘Year Of The Dog’ (2011), and album, ‘Prehab’ (2014), to their name. This, however, is about to change with the release of a brand new long player ‘Strays’, which arrives after a line-up change that saw drummer Jasak Leino depart as well as a change in musical direction for the time being at least. The inspiration for this newfound direction of a pared back sound came from the band’s live performances where they received a flood of positive responses from their fans. Such encouragement led to Womack incorporating this acoustic sound in their latest record ‘Strays’, and the results are impressive. From the gradual climb of opening song ‘Ain’t No Thing’ where Henrik Haarlo’s vocal really captures the moody atmosphere of the song rather well, to the fuller sound of ‘Stumble On’ which is emphasised by use of Hammond organ more or less throughout. ‘Snakebites’ shows off Womack’s knack for song writing with clever lyrics reflecting various guises of betrayal during this mid-tempo number. There is a definite live feel to ‘Home Brew’ as it sounds raw in its execution both musically and emotionally, before giving way to the far greater band involvement of album highlights ‘Light Up The Stage’ and ‘Flight To The Sun’. It appears that Womack’s supporters were definitely on to something when giving their full support to a largely acoustic album as ‘Strays’ is full of detail and never loses its edge due to the enthusiasm and energy of its band members.


Released 5 May

 

Origin

The Hypothesis

Inverse Records

For those in the know, The Hypothesis formed during a severely cold winter in Kouvola, Finland, which seems to provide a reminder for the band in terms of the manner in which they roll out the contents of their debut album. Whilst nothing can be described as light in tone here, considering the level of heavy crunching riffs and pummelling drum sounds, The Hypothesis allow for additional ideas to creep in to their overall sound with numerous melodic touches added to their grooves. Evidence of these ideas can be heard from their new album, ‘Origin’, that was given the upmost care and attention to detail during a recording stint in 2012 deep in the heart of the Viitasaari countryside as the band laid out their nine tracks. Former single ‘Eye For Eye’ is one that stands out for its flittering electronic intro before launching headfirst into a full-on assault of guitars, drums and roaring yet gruff vocals of Antti Seppälä. From such songs, The Hypothesis show their range by combining heavy textures with more melodic moments and a greater willingness to experiment with songs such as ‘Weak Story’ and ‘Atonement’. There is no doubting the dexterity of their musicianship as The Hypothesis often deliver an uncompromising sound but one that reveals extreme levels of detail that should see this five-piece unit garnering a whole host of new supporters once ‘Origin’ makes its entrance to a wider market.


Released 11 March

 

Horse Jumper of Love

Horse Jumper of Love'

Disposable America / Gawk Records

Horse Jumper of Love is a trio hailing from Boston, USA, who’ve just delivered a debut album of the same name, and one that is described in their own words as “slow rock” where guitars are set to shoegaze and the song lyrics are intimate and honest. With the band being in their teens and early twenties, there is a sense of experience both in terms of their appearances and most certainly in terms of their sound, where the latter category you can hear references to 90s indie bands such as Duster, Moose and Silver Jews. That’s not to say that Horse Jumper of Love is in any way antiquated, but one that contains a wiser head and used to great effect here. There is a deep-seated emotional sadness and frustration attached to this long player that drips from the pores found in their own personal history, and one that is associated with opening track, ‘Ugly Brunette’, where the sound really gives the impression of aching from the inside out via the hazy and fuzzy guitars and Dimitri Giannopoulos mumbled vocal. The intriguingly named ‘Bagel Breath’ rhythmically stumbles along, highlighting the low self-esteem of the song’s narrative, before taking a more melodic and structured turn via the compelling ‘Spaceman’. With the contents of this album often retaining a minimalist approach where less is certainly more, Horse Jumper of Love adheres to the ethics of the DIY underground scene where they have built their reputation to date. But it’s in the lonely isolation of such numbers as ‘DIRT’ where you will find the heart and soul of this band, and it is one you may never recover from such is the close-to-the-bone honesty expressed here. Truly a band to savour, Horse Jumper of Love will break a million hearts.


Released 1 April

 

First Blood

The Muddies

Secret Entertainment

First hearing of The Muddies debut album ‘First Blood’, the feelings were of a band who certainly like to have fun, and no how to achieve such an objective. Stemming from Vaajakoski in Finland, The Muddies is a rock band with a high level of energy, and one that possesses influences from a variety of classic rock bands such as AC/DC, Motörhead, Dr. Feelgood, The Hives and, as far as the humour goes, Aerosmith. The first signs of this merriment can be found in the song titles with examples such as ‘Cougar Hunter’, ‘Wacko Wacko’ and ‘Don’t Touch Your..’ certainly failing to adhere to any form of political correctness found in the current era. This is largely down to The Muddies ideals residing in a 70s – 80s time capsule, where certain points of view were part of the furniture when it came to the genre of rock music. Times have changed, however. Despite any misgivings here, the band’s noise is far from stuck in a bygone era because The Muddies ramp up their sound to give it a fresh feel. Part of the excitement surrounding The Muddies goes back to the previously mentioned energy at the centre of this rock quartet, which is captured expertly by the rockin’ guitars and Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ backing vocals during the aforementioned ‘Cougar Hunter’, which can be interpreted a couple of ways if you think about it. Much later, there is the riveting ‘Shaken Not Stirred’ that will peel back your eardrums, to the in-your-face attitude and highly addictive beat of ‘I Want Something’. The key to all of this however, lies with the excellent ‘River’ where the guitars excel once more, and the band dig deeper in terms of the lyrics. On the evidence of this first album, The Muddies is a band here to stay, and ‘First Blood’ is just the start.


Released Out now

 

Shaky Hand Modifier (Single)

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

After picking up a gong of sorts last year with their debut album earning a respectable position in the FLW Top 50 Records of 2015, those wild and weird misfits from planet Jupiter, the Harvey Steel show, reappear with the first seed of new material by way of the single, ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’. The noticeable difference compared to what went before sees the band’s sound reined in tighter with shorter, sharper bursts of a combined recipe involving blues, jazz and indie, but with less noodling as far as the psychedelia goes. That said, ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’ will delight those who’ve pledged their allegiance to this intergalactic band of musicians with a gritty, bluesy guitar forging a path from start to finish, and ably supported in the rear by a single trumpet and Kristine Marie Aasvang’s vocal strongly relaying the contents here with ship captain, Thomas Bergsten, adding the impish persona via the backing vocals .The devil is definitely sitting on the shoulder of this song, but rather than causing absolute mayhem serves as a motivational force keeping the Harvey Steel show on their toes in their attempts to ward off the shaky hand in question. If ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’ is the sign of what’s to come, then please sir, more of this edgy paranoia because it might just lead the Harvey Steel show to absolute greatness.


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 Out now

 

This Life Of Mine

Jen Lane

Poor Kitty / Independent

Singer-songwriter Jen Lane has made a name for herself back home in her native Canada and, more specifically, the Western Canadian music scene. It was this very region of Canada that seriously took note of Jen Lane’s first two album releases, ‘Sleepless’ (1999) and ‘Injection’ (2002); with the former album receiving a nomination for a Prairie Music Award when the Canadian songstress was just 16 years of age. Further recognition of her musical prowess came by way of Lane’s self-titled 2006 album, and the 2010 follow-up, ‘For the Night’, with both albums being nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards. Bringing things up to date, Jen Lane’s new long player ‘This Life Of Mine’ arrives after some time on the sidelines due to a physical injury that saw many hours in and out of surgery. With that period behind her, Lane didn’t hesitate to recruit former collaborator and producer John MacArthur Ellis to produce once more, in addition to the musicianship of Nick Stecz in order to finish the songs making up her latest, and fifth album. By taking in elements of country, roots, folk and Americana, Lane has created an album rich in sounds, but one that also refers to a series of personal aspects from her life as well as observations of those around her. Starting off with the gentle country sway of ‘Waitin For You’, Jen Lane’s vocal is golden as are the instruments as there is a warm, welcoming haze surrounding this song. There is a country pop ambience to the fractured relationship of ‘Movin On’ that shifts from such a depressed state to one of frivolity via the ‘1st Day Of Spring In Saskatchewan)’. Taking a break from her own songwriting, a cover of Big Star’s ’13’ is thrown into the mix and it’s a more than admirable rendition. However, it’s Lane’s own compositions that are of most interest here, with the reflective country ballad ‘My Man’ and melancholic, yet beautiful ‘Hollow Heart’ that impress greatly, making ‘This Life Of Mine’ an album definitely worth owning.


Released Out now

 

Lay Your Burden Down (Single)

Hege

Rootsy

Taken from her current album ‘When My Man Comes To Town’ that is picking up glowing plaudits from various critics including this very music publication, Hege makes the decision to issue ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ to offer another example of what all the fuss is about. With ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ containing a far chipper rhythm compared to a few of the other offerings from her latest album, the lyrics provide a shoulder to cry on, with religion playing its part here, and the band offering a welcoming sound with its references to western swing and gospel and, most notably, the steel strings, fiddle and Hege’s subtle tinges of Dolly Parton held in her vocal. There’s no other place to ease your worries right now than Hege and her new single, ‘Lay Your Burden Down’, because you will leave feeling enriched by the end of this experience.


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.



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