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Released Out now

 

Stuff We Leave Behind

Wonky Tonk

Working Brilliantly

If you’re seeking something with a bit more originality behind it, then you’ve come to the right place with Wonky Tonk and the album, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’. By holding a suitable moniker considering the wide array of influences skewered into the ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’, Jasmine Pool (aka Wonky Tonk) remains a fiercely independent artist willing to bend the rules when it comes to a number of genres by applying her own touches, and bringing out a largely country sound fused with elements of folk, indie and pop music. With her actual roots stemming from a love of punk music, the attitude of this genre goes some way to explaining the amalgamation of sounds making up Wonky Tonk’s latest album. With ‘Turn The Radio On’ providing a stirring entrance with it’s a cappella delivery, and then switching to the jaunty country-rock rhythm of ‘Cleveland’, complete with an audacious mix of 50s soda-pop backing vocals and a lead vocal that is definitely entrenched in the formerly mentioned punk roots, Wonky Tonk wastes no time in getting her influences across. The differing styles continue apace with ‘Billings, MT’ and ‘Montague Road’ possessing a 90s indie feel via Throwing Muses, Juliana Hatfield and The Lemonheads, before offering a reflective indie-acoustic number via ‘Denmark, which just happens to be one of the countries this Kentucky-bred singer songwriter has flaunted her music previously. Despite the various shifts in tone, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’ works as a whole surprisingly well, and perhaps best illustrated with the honky tonk inspired ‘Washington Avenue’; gorgeous ballads ‘Tennessee’ and ‘One For The Juke’, and therefore making this album a rather essential acquisition.


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

 

Breathing In

Dan Lipton

Working Brilliantly

Picking up comparisons with the likes of Jeff Buckley, Paul Simon and Ray LaMontagne is the new album ‘Breathing In’ from singer-songwriter Dan Lipton. With a sound that fuses the traditional sound of Americana with story-based blues, in addition with Appalachian country and world music, Dan Lipton displays such influences throughout his current album comprising of twelve self-penned songs. The album ‘Breathing In’ was a lengthy process, having utilised a number of empty cabins from Maine to Virginia to seek the right atmosphere for each, and every track in terms of their recordings. What Lipton ended up with is a close intimacy that can be heard in such songs as the tender and sore ache of ‘Dark Water’, and softer pop tones of equally good ‘Come On Georgia’. There is great care taken with all the contents of ‘Breathing In’, which is echoed in the quality of the recorded works where songs can sound bright and colourful by way of its title track and near jaunty rhythm of ‘MTA’. For those seeking that singular moment with the songwriter, then the wistful ‘Wings Of A Crow’ is a fine place to start, with Lipton in fine vocal and occasionally supported by a faint yet soothing backing vocal. It’s Lipton’s song writing qualities that really impress throughout with his ability to name a song ‘End Of The World’ yet give it an upbeat feel, as well as transform the lonely isolation of ‘Television’ in to something warm and engaging via its country roots. A master in his own field, Dan Lipton has just delivered an album of supreme quality, and one that is definitely worth ‘Breathing In’.


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.


Released Out now

 

Contritions

Cult of the Lost Cause

Sailor Records

Stemming from Denver, Colorado, Cult of the Lost Cause is a powerhouse of post-metal sound skilfully bolted together by the trio of Mike (drums), Thom (bass) and Mhyk (guitar). The band’s efforts can be heard during latest album ‘Contritions’ that contains former post-rock instrumental single, ‘The Drowned God’. It’s this former single that really sets the tone for this new long player, where instruments give various expressions of soaring and dipping with numerous gear changes that crunch and grind along the way. With ‘Contritions’ being recorded in the band’s home city of Denver at Flatline Audio with producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Khemmis, Native Daughters), the attention to detail is to be admired. From the tumbling drumroll and short instrumental injection that is ‘All Those In Favour’, and then flipping in an instant to its rival in opposition, ‘All Those Opposed’, with its guitar heavy (not in all places) and overall expansive sound, Cult of the Lost Cause clearly understand the art of expressing their sentiments through their instruments. Rather than being lumped in with an Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You, for example, the three-piece from Denver offer an altogether more caustic and thicker sound, while still containing the occasional sweeter edges held in ‘Hessian Crucible’ and ‘The Cloud Collector’. A true delight and emotionally stirring via its instrumentation, Cult of the Lost Cause deliver in style via ‘Contritions’.


Released 5 February

 

Hooked!

The Cheaters

Artwood Records

It was only just over a year ago that Vestfold three-piece, The Cheaters, picked up their prize gong for best rock album under the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys with the Spellemannprisen. With that award sitting proudly on The Cheaters’ mantelpiece at home for their ‘Rites of Spring’ long player, the indie-rock trio were soon spurred into action with new songs arriving thick and fast in preparation for their third album. ‘Hooked’ is the end result and sees the light of day on the band’s own label Artwood Records. With the previous album’s formula proving effective (see earlier), The Cheaters called on the production skills of Erlend Mokkelbost (JR Ewing, Montée) to aid the band in their quest to capture the sounds they were after. With elements of post-punk combined with indie rock, ‘Hooked’ throws up an energetic ride packed with tight rhythms and full of melodic touches, the kind of which were present during recent single ‘Diamond Light’. Elsewhere, the drumroll intro of ‘Voodoo Eyes’ sets up a dark and jagged canvass of sounds with lead singer Øyvind Skarsbø sounding convincingly woozy with his words. The actual track ‘Hooked!’ is a spikey little number, full of attitude and perfectly expressed via a clapping beat and serrated guitar. A similar approach can be heard during ‘Just Like You’, only there is a bit more chaos suggested here, as demonstrated by the clash of instruments and (wonderfully) bitter tone of the lyrics, that not everything is so harmonious at home. With an impending European tour on the horizon, The Cheaters are certainly set to go with these firecrackers making up the contents of ‘Hooked!’ because it shows a band at the very top of their game with no hint of faltering. A class act indeed!


Released 5 February

 

Nothing Out Of Nothing

Slap Betty

Inverse Records / Secret Entertainment

The opening segment of the press release that accompanied Finnish rockers Slap Betty’s new album ‘Nothing Out of Nothing’ caused a great deal of mirth at Famous Last Words (FLW). The source of such merriment was, ‘The band that often cuts electricity returns with their second album’ which has affected other artists such as Backyard Babies, not to mention a few festival appearances as well! With a sound that’s too hot to handle therefore, Slap Betty deliver an honest set of rock tunes mixed with fragments of punk and even older rock and roll. Such examples of this can be found right at the doorstep of this new release with the socio-political commentary of ‘World We Leave Behind’ that is equally tough and gritty in sound, and complete with a persuasive vocal which gives the impression of having been left to soak overnight in bourbon. With the band being made up of Teemu (vocal/guitar), Juuso (drums), Juhana (guitar) and Antti (bass), Slap Betty continue to deliver rhythmically tight numbers with ‘List Of The Things I Hate’ and ‘Fill My Cup’. It’s not all foot to the floor stompers, however, as Slap Betty tone things down a bit with the melodic tones of ‘Perfect’, and reflective stance of closing track ‘Shame’. Whilst their activities outside of the recording studio might be prone to accidents, there is nothing calamitous about ‘Nothing Out Of Nothing’ as Slap Betty pull out all the stops to ensure that album number two is a roaring success.


Released 5 February

 

It Can Only Be So Good (Single)

Sancho Panzer

Untitled

Fishing exercises are all well and good, but when listening to Exeter based Sancho Panzer’s new single, there might be something worthwhile here. ‘It Can Only Be So Good’ falls into the category of post-punk yet has an air of straight rock about it as well. With the band having won Rocksound’s Battle of the Bands back in 2007, it has taken some time for the band to hone their sound to the point where debut albums are fully realised. Such a feat has been achieved by Sancho Panzer as the band steady themselves for their first album release this spring, with the title set in place, ‘Your Own Accord’. Back to the single as the self-belief is definitely evident as ‘It Can Only Be Good’ pulls away at some speed, and really carried by some excellent guitar work and charming team vocals that are enough to warrant further investigation when that debut album arrives.


Released 5 February

 

Oh Lisa (Single)

Label

Safe & Sound Recordings

Interesting one this. Knowing next to nothing about Norwegian band Label and their previous single ‘Oslo So Slow’ which, apparently, was a summer smash on these shores, the band return with a new offering by the name, ‘Oh Lisa’. Expecting a strong alt. country twang to reverberate from the speakers considering the record label involved, Label’s sound is far from any such associations with said genre. In fact, ‘Oh Lisa’ is built of earlier Californian pop and rock, with a definite breezy feel attached to it that also suggests a more up-to-date indie(ish) vibe that veers towards the likes of The Magic Numbers for example. With the single recorded at Crystal Canyon Studios in Oslo and produced by Anders Møller, who also serves as the drummer for this single, ‘Oh Lisa’ is the kind of intelligent pop music that should be infiltrating the nation’s airwaves on a more regular basis as it has all the right ingredients with its melodic hooks and smart lyrics. It looks like Label has another hit single on their hands with ‘Oh Lisa’.


Released 5 February

 

Daphne (Single)

Grandmother Corn

Secret Entertainment

There is suggestion of tongue planted firmly in cheek when it comes to Grandmother Corn and their predominantly rock inspired sounds. That’s not to infer that this Finnish trio do not take their music seriously because they most certainly do, it’s more that Grandmother Corn understand that humour can be an important aspect of rock and roll and if you can inject a slice of this into your music, then why the heck not! Where Grandmother Corn makes use of such a medium is via the band’s visuals, whether in appearance live up on stage or through video imagery. New single ‘Daphne’ makes use of the latter, with its video revealing the band’s eccentricities – the angelic dress code for starters – which is topped off with add-on choir vocals during the song’s fadeout, but it is the loose jangle of the song’s rhythm that is a little bit blues, funk and rock with a definite pinch of early Stones’ that really captures one’s attention. With lyrics drumming up images of the American south with references to various inshore waters, corn fed diets and subtle religious connotations, Grandmother Corn is definitely a rare breed, and one that is living by their own rules as ‘Daphne’ indicates.



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