Album Reviews

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Hollywood Hop EP

RJ

Hans Jus D' Orange Entertainment

Rockabilly from Vreeland in the Netherlands by way of the initials RJ, otherwise known as Hans Jus D’ Orange, with a four-track EP straight to vinyl, and looking mightily impressive from the packaging alone. Once this latest release from RJ begins spinning you know you’re in safe hands with the authentic delivery of the vocal and immediacy of opening song ‘Hollywood Hop’. It’s an infectious start in terms of its rhythm, where guitars buzz and jingle harmoniously and the upright bass maintains a constant beat that keeps the genre of rockabilly well and truly alive. The following ‘Nobody’s Boppin’ Tonight’ maintains the tempo with a boppin’ rhythm that will persuade any doubters in no time that the dancefloor really is the place to be! The flipside offering finds RJ smitten with the ‘Red Head’ of the title as emphasised by some clever touches of the guitar and nice roll of the tongue in the vocal department.  Whist the four tracks presented here do not rely on any characteristics that are wild in nature, there is more of a rugged approach to final song ‘All Right, All Right’, which chugs along at a nice pace with the lead guitar and RJ’s vocal steering the wheel of this particular number. With the dancefloor in mind, this is a call to action as there are enough examples here to motivate anyone’s limbs, which RJ certainly succeeds in doing!


Released Out now

 

Travellin’ Heavy with the Doel Brothers

The Doel Brothers

El Toro

Falling off the rear end of the passing jalopy this morning, and landing right on the doorstep of Famous Last Words (FLW), is the current album from the Doel Brothers with ‘Travellin’ Heavy with the Doel Brothers’. Brewed in the backwoods of Hampshire, the trio of brothers – Tom (drums), Gordon (vocals/guitar) and David (vocals/guitar) – are joined once more by Steve Whitworth on double bass, and Phil Morgan handling the steel guitar, in order to bring to life their second full-length album. What the listener gets here are twelve originals penned by the Doel Brothers that sound as if they have come from the hillbilly settlements of old, and one that is not afraid to shake things up with added western swing and rockabilly. As ‘Wild Wild Woman’ kicks things off with a definite sense of the ‘wild’ about it, due to a driving rhythm and the Doel Brothers full of holler during this rockabilly number. ‘Trouble’ is an intimate tale that is blues in nature and one that is compellingly told by Gordon Doel, and features some serious guitar playing that keeps this engine finely tuned. The filling wedged at the centre of this second long player from the Doel Brothers maintains the consistency and high quality with a succession of songs packed full of intricate details via some wonderful guitar pickin’, with added steel guitar that trips between ‘Does It Feel Good’, ‘You Ain’t A Woman’, ‘Side Step Round The Blues’ and ‘What Ya Wanna Do That For’. If that wasn’t enough excitement, then the truly in hicksville delivery of ‘Oh Boy’ (No, not that one!) turns up the heat somewhat with its references to honky tonk, which leaves the Doel Brothers in fine spirits and making ‘Travellin’ Heavy With The Doel Brothers’ a ride well worth taking.


Released 22 January

 

When Love Is Alive (Single)

BLØSH

Julia Julia Records

BLØSH is a duo from Madrid (Spain) and Skjetten (Norway) who look set to unleash their debut album next month. In the meantime, the single ‘When Love Is Alive’ is a taster of what’s to come with singer and cellist Teresa Bernabe and guitarist Jørgen Berg Svela working a sophisticated indie pop song that is skyward bound with the dreamy qualities of its melody. With this current single featuring Siri Nilsen, who also lends a hand in relation to the forthcoming album that also includes the talent of Hanne Kolstø, the duo of BLØSH remain in good company. The decision to pursue this creative venture is beginning to look very promising for BLØSH, and it might just be that their other duties of working with fellow artists such as Mikhael Paskalev, Depedro (Calexico),Lillebjørn Nilsen, Jonas Alaska, and Bow to Each Other could well be a thing of the past if BLØSH can repeat the same formula found with this rather magnificent effort, ‘When Love Is Alive’.


Released 22 January

 

Si Det Sånn (Single)

Marte Wulff

Propeller Recordings

The singer-songwriter Marte Wulff has experienced a very interesting career to date having been living and working overseas and now firmly back in her native Norway. In addition, Wulff possess an impressive back catalogue consisting of four albums which can be divided equally in terms of their choice of language used, with two of her albums having been performed in English, and the other two in her local dialect. Also, recognition of Wulff’s song writing abilities extends to film and television where a variety of her songs have been used, as well as being on the receiving end of much radio play. The next part of this musical journey is the brand new single ‘Si Det Sånn’ that sees Wulff revert back to Norwegian and probably due to her move back home as well. The single itself is a tender folk song that focuses on human vulnerability, and delivered in compelling fashion by Wulff’s natural sounding vocal and expert guitar playing from Fay Wilhagen. With the new album not due until April this year, ‘Si Det Sånn’ is a fine beginning and one likely to be placed on high rotation until the full album arrives.


Released Out now

 

Change Nothing EP

Terrible Love

Bandcamp

With the demise of Bastions, Goodtime Boys and Grappler, members from each of these bands decided to congregate and discuss the potential for a new line-up to address their concerns ranging from personal issues, cultural blandness, and the general sense of apathy among the present generation. A decision was therefore made to form a new band under the name Terrible Love, in order to tackle some of these worries but, more importantly, keep the creative flame burning. The first release from this new outfit is the EP ‘Change Nothing’; five tracks that fly out of the traps in a mixture of coiled anxiety and bristling energy such as the frantic ‘Mt. Misery’ where the drums certainly take centre stage, to the EP’s title song that is to be exalted for its honesty with, “Expectations in myself that were never in reach” and the realisation that there are certain battles in life that you really can’t win. With plans for live dates and a possible 12″ record later in the year, Terrible Love is certainly not going to admit defeat in the wake of this EP finally coming to fruition, and the sense that these five tracks really could change a few opinions if given the chance.


Released 22 January

 

Apologize (Single)

Margaret Berger

Berger / Phonofile

The return of Margaret Berger with the single ‘Apologize’ has been a long time coming after the victory at the Norwegian MGP and consecutive participation at the Eurovision. Add to that list working as a music panellist for television, and cooperation with underground pop trio F A.C.E, and then Margaret Berger’s absence from the music scene gains more explanation. With her own record label in place (Berger / Phonofile), and a collaborative partnership with Adriane Leinsworth and Anders Kjær, the latter of whom produced ‘Apologize’, Berger has lost none of her desire to succeed in a competitive pop environment, but it seems to have come at a personal cost judging by the sentiments expressed throughout this comeback single. Closer examination shows that ‘Apologize’ runs to a slow, moody electronic tempo, and presents an emotionally naked Berger who is not afraid to recognise her own faults as well as addressing the other reasons for the breakdown in question. It’s a rousing comeback in more ways than one from this Norwegian artist, and one not likely to be repeated in terms of the lyrics considering their open nature. The next step in Margaret Berger’s career is definitely one to keep an eye on.


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Black (Single)

Anne Lene Hägglund

Diger

Under the impression that this was a new artist until further research revealed that the former Trondheim resident, Anne Lene Hägglund, has been here before with two previously recorded outputs; namely ‘Bird Cherry Grove’ and ‘Onboard’. With this in mind, the single ‘Black’ provides the second impression of the forthcoming album ‘Coming Up Tails’, after the first single, ‘Tell Me (How It’s Like To Be Insane)’ being released last year. With one or two pointers held by the song title to the nature of the subject matter on offer here, with an overall suggestion being made of a fresh start during the song itself, Anne Lene Hägglund begins in a wispy vocal that is reminiscent of Norwegian artist Maria Solheim, before taking ‘Black’ on a musical journey largely fuelled by electronic synths that raise this song to near epic proportions towards its end. It’s a stirring three minutes of dark, reflective indie pop, and one that raises the curiosity levels for that imminent third album release.


Released Out now

 

The Rise of Beesus

Beesus

New Sonic Records / Goodfellas

With the formation of this group going as far back as 2010, Beesus, consisting of band members Touis (vocals), Pootchie (guitar), Mutt (bass) and Mudd (drums), held dreams of performing their take on alternative-metal and fuzz rock which inspired them greatly from The Melvins through to Mudhoney. Fast-forward and those early visions have now become a reality, as this Italian four piece is ready with a debut album in hand, which is currently being promoted throughout Europe with a number of live dates. To summarise, ‘The Rise of Beesus’ is described adequately by the band’s vocalist Touis who says, “The name Beesus is a depiction of the human will to create and destroy…” which certainly transmits to the band’s overall sound where songs build themselves up, only to come tumbling back down in a barrage of noise. The title track certainly prescribes to such a theory by steadily opening out, guitars straining, and then followed by a sludge-infested beat that gathers momentum nearing its chaotic end. From such a fine start, Beesus show that they have more than one trick in their musical closet by way of ‘6ft Under Box’ with its mesmerising sonic offshoots and the light waltz of its guitars that eventually run out room due to crashing into to the appropriately named ‘Stonerslam’. With Beesus having recorded this album live at Wolf Recording Studio, the signs are certainly audible during the slower pace of ‘Kusa’ where improvisation has been used in the vocals, and likewise the shift in gear of the instruments during ‘Sonic Doom / Stoner Youth’. ‘The Rise of Beesus’ is a clear indication of a long-held vision that has finally come to life in a mass of drawn out noise full of stoner rock and sludge metal riffs, but one that is willing to experiment with different methods in order to get there. It looks like Beesus has all of the components in place to take this one step further when the next album is ready for production.


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Wild One (Single)

Kari Harneshaug

Harneshaug Music

The description ‘haunting beauty’ is quite possibly a much overused expression, but when it comes to Kari Harneshaug’s latest single, ‘Wild One’, it’s one that has surely been reserved for this Norwegian songstress. One listen of this second single from the upcoming album, ‘We Were Closer To End’, is enough to arrest one’s senses into submission, such are the alluring qualities of Harneshaug’s voice set to an atmospheric backdrop where guitar(s) shimmer and keys are lightly applied. With song lyrics cutting deep yet remaining smart enough to not give the game away, it’s left to a momentary lapse in the instrumentation, by way of a stray guitar and a squall of feedback that nearly lifts the lid on the tension at the heart of this song, and therefore exposing itself for everyone to see. If the rest of the contents of the forthcoming long player match the arresting qualities shown here, then Kari Harneshaug is in for a very good year indeed.


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Kill Em With Kindness (Single)

Slutface

Propeller Recordings

Much will be made of the band’s name no doubt, but once you get past the ten minute discussion there is an engaging tune to be heard here with ‘Kill Em With Kindness’. Consisting of largely a pop influence but with references to indie and punk music, Slutface combine the lot to draw the listener in hook, line, and sinker with an irresistible beat that has been championed by the likes of Annie Mac over at BBC Radio 1. With this latest single being the follow up to the previous ‘Shave My Head’ that received radio recognition in the band’s home country of Norway, Slutface look set to add to their growing popularity with the single ‘Kill Em With Kindness’ and  imminent tour of the UK. Look out!


Released Out now

 

Headache

Trupa Trupa

Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records

After receiving a tip-off recently by somebody closely associated with Polish indie band Trupa Trupa and their third album release ‘Headache’, the information given proved highly reliable because what you get here is an intriguing combination of alternative rock with dabs of psychedelia and tales of a darkly twisted nature. With the album having been recorded at Dickie Dreams studio in Gdansk, Poland, Trupa Trupa set their songs to tape and ended up with eleven numbers that have been garnering attention throughout Europe. With Grzegorz Kwiatkowski leading the line in a combined effort of singing and spoken word that sometimes sounds off-kilter, and deliberately so when placed next to the harsh instrumentation of the opening ‘Snow’ for example, it may take a while for others to acclimatise to such methods of expression. The unconventional vocal of the aforementioned ‘Snow’ is not duplicated however, but developed in other ways that shows up ‘Headache’ as record that challenges itself creatively, by continually pushing itself judging by the shifting moods of the songs. Such a suggestion can be ascertained from the cloud of paranoia hanging over ‘Halleyesonme’, with added grey by way of synths and a stony drum beat, only to finally find its emotional release via the ensuing ‘Sky Is Falling’ that starts off peaceful enough, before Grzegorz Kwiatkowski finds his voice that is! With ‘Sacrifice’ providing a comedown of sorts with its dishevelled appearance and hazy rhythm bringing to mind Syd Barrett, and The Beatles experiments with psychedelia. Further on, ‘Give ‘Em All’ is Trupa Trupa having the final say, but deceptively wrapped in a warm fuzzy haze that is a delight to hear in the same way that ‘Rise and Fall’ allows for a few drops of sweetness in its vocals and instruments. Deeply immersed in their work and remaining steadfast to their beliefs and vision , Trupa Trupa triumph greatly with their third long player ‘Headache’, that sets up a number of challenges for the listener, as well as providing moments of sheer beauty and wonderment, the kind of which is all too scarce these days.


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Dial My Number

Billy and The Kids

El Toro

Not to be confused with a band of similar name, Billy and The Kids is a rip-roaring trio from Sweden. With all the furore surrounding their latest album ‘Dial My Number’, it’s easy to digest such hype once the contents of their long player have ceased spinning because the high praise is fully deserved. By packing a combined punch and swagger in the sonic department, coupled with a real bounty of creative ideas, Billy and The Kids show their genius from the off with the rockin’ title track ‘Dial My Number’ and subsequent ‘Beautiful Brown Eyes’ which possess a swagger to its rhythm. ‘Bring My Cadillac Back’ is full of invention as it borrows a little bit of Gene Vincent, in addition to tracking the edges of a swing band and combining this with rock and roll. Such a description is a giveaway to the chosen cover of ‘Shake Rattle ‘n’ Roll’ with Big Joe Turner and Bill Haley & His Comets coming to mind here as possible influences on the band. Elsewhere,  lead singer and guitar player, Billy Stefan, sounds like an experienced head during ‘Just Your Friend’ with his vocal fully crooning and supported by a rhythm that is deliberately pared back and thus allowing Stefan’s vocal to do all the talking. By repeating a similar feat with the slightly rougher around its corners (again, this sounds like a deliberate tactic and one that works effectively) ‘Fame and Fortune’, and being a short-lived affair on a couple of levels, Billy and The Kids frontman shows that he can croon with the best of them. Full of variety, packed with energy and holding great pockets of creativity, Billy and The Kids deliver a full-length album that will leave your jaw gaping in astonishment. Just don’t be fooled by the commercial feel of the artwork though.



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