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Released Out now

 

Snakes In Blossom

Angertea

Inverse Records

Returning with a ten-track album, and the fifth in their career to date, is Angertea. The alternative rock and metal band provides an honest account of their emotions with songs focusing on issues concerning depression, helplessness, love and corruption in modern-day society. With a number of the ten tracks featuring a series of guest musicians including Franz Stahl (ex-Foo Fighters, Scream), Robert Jaksa (Ektomorf), Flóra Sarusi-Kis, Dióssy Ákos (Kipál És A Borz) and Peter Csontos (The Void), Angertea’s latest album, ‘Snakes In Blossom’, never sounds disjointed considering the extra personnel involved. With the band citing their sound as “experimental grunge metal with unique features” and being an apt description when listening to the Alice in Chains meets Soundgarden ‘Snakes’, and then, ‘Sinking In Strain’, which has hints of Tool for example. The changing nature of the music does not end there as ‘Aquarium’ slows the tempo with its softer approach of folk and alt-rock that works to great effect with the vocals of guest singer Flóra Sarusi-Kis complementing the normal vocal duties of Angertea’s Gergő. It’s a fine song, and one that greatly stands out here. Normal service is resumed with the experimental grunge and lengthy ‘Orange Machine’. The band know, however, when balance is required and they certainly address this with the lighter soundwaves of ‘The Moon Encounter’, before ending in a crescendo of noise via the closing ‘Tisza’. ‘Snakes In Blossom’ is a clear reminder of the talented musicianship of this Hungarian trio, who manage to further their own ideas with a little help from their friends via their latest collection of songs.


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 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 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.



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