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Why?

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Under a cloud of mixed emotions, Monster Jaw is parting ways after three years together. With the spilt described as “amicable”, the final track to be left as part of their legacy is the appropriately named ‘Why?’. Appropriate because there are a number of questions that remain unanswered in terms of an industry that seems to be increasingly concerned with social media figures and, in the process, forgetting where the real song writing lies. Truth be said, Monster Jaw were never really going to fit in with such plastic times with a sound that would have appealed to fans of the much-missed indie music channel SnubTV of the early 90s, and therefore a classic example of right band, but wrong time. Still, final single, ‘Why?’, is the perfect send off as it brings together the lo-fi qualities of more recent works, only for a soaring guitar sound loosening the intensity somewhat yet generating an emotive feel where there is a real sense of letting go. It will be difficult to wave goodbye to the trio of Mik Davis, Neil Short and John Bradford, but at least they are leaving behind a trail of EPs and singles that really stirred the emotions and generated much enthusiasm from those true believers.


Released Out now

 

If You Have To Cry (Single)

Hege

Rootsy

After the Swedish experiment that was ‘Till Harry’, Hege makes a welcome return with the single, ‘If You Have To Cry’. Taken from the forthcoming album, ‘When My Man Comes To Town’, this first offering from Hege marks a return to use of the English language, and one that will lift the restrictions for those who were unable to join in with the formerly mentioned ‘Till Harry’ long player. Where that previous album made heavy use of piano, the new single, ‘If You Have To Cry’, sees Hege opt for the more traditional rock and roll setup of bass, guitar and drums, with the addition of pedal steel because this is country music after all. The single itself is something of a mystery as the contents of the narrative makes for a compelling listen, with a closely guarded secret held between two central characters that alludes to some form of wrongdoing being the only giveaway. Repeat visits will only generate further questions as to the songs overall meaning, always a good sign when it comes to the art of song writing which, along with Hege’s emphatic vocal delivery that is suggestive of Dolly Parton with the slightest grain of Gillian Welch, are good enough reasons to keep coming back for more.


Released 13 November

 

This December (Single)

Ine Hoem

Slaraffen Songs / Starbox Recordings

After this year’s debut album, ‘Angerville’, and appropriate single, ‘This Year’ that received much radio play in her home country of Norway, Ine Hoem made a swift return to the recording studio to maintain the attention her indie electronic pop has been receiving. Sweden has been the choice of destination to record the new material for Ine Hoem’s next album, with producer Tobias Fröberg (Ane Brun, Loreen, Anna Bergendahl) selected, along with musicians Lars Skoglund (Lykke Li) and Robert Elovsson (Robyn) to add their guidance and expertise as well. The first fruit to surface from this process is the song, ‘This December’ that pays reference to personal aspects of Ine Hoem’s life, against a seasonal period that can be both impressive and miserable in equal measure. Such feelings are echoed by the lyrics and the manner in which Ine Hoem expresses these words, where the enthusiasm for “I plan to have a party” is not really quite there, and seems more a nostalgic reference than anything else. The low-key electronic pop generated here also gives the game away that all is perhaps not well in the Hoem household, where the desire for a feline friend at the top of the Christmas list looks odds on favourite to win. There is a dark humour at the bottom of this song, it just takes a few rounds to hear it. In terms of what to expect regarding the new album is as good as anybody’s guess because Ine Hoem is definitely keeping her cards close to her chest.


Released 6 November

 

Social Coma

Cold Sweats

Six 3 Collective

Incredible to think that Binghamton and Brooklyn’s Cold Sweats formed only five months ago, yet here they are with full album in hand and living true to that punk DIY ethic where rock and roll really is for everyone, if you have the audacity to give it a go that is. What’s even more impressive, however, is the manner in which Cold Sweats set about their business by constructing a series of songs that contain a considerable amount of variation between the layers of punk rock, where influences range from indie, pop and surf rock, but ultimately Cold Sweats has managed to cultivate a sound that is uniquely their own. Evidence of this can be garnered from the opening song, ‘The Business’ that stretches out its message by means of wavering guitar noises and a sinister vocal that has a habit of lingering, before crossing paths and imploding in a crescendo of noise. Elsewhere, ‘Coney Island Cops’ is straining at the leash, full of snarling attitude via its vocal and backed with a real vicious edge by way of a razor-sharp guitar. It’s a definite short sharp jolt to the system, and one with a single finger salute to authority. As mentioned, rather than pursuing the formulaic route of a punk rock album, Cold Sweats continue the variation with the scathing sentiments of ‘Waste of a Day’, that comes complete with a jarring guitar riff and pounding drums that manages to wedge itself deep in the mind, and continue echoing there long after it’s finished. ‘Souvenir’ takes an immediate stranglehold via the guitar and pretty much continues its hold over the entire song, only to find next the vocal taking centre stage, or at least try, as it staggers about in what sounds like a drunken state, relaying fragments of disaffected lives during ‘Problem Kids’. With the album having been produced by Hunter Davidsohn and recorded in a destitute and abandoned area of Binghamton, which just happens to be home to Twilight Zone creator Rod Sterling, it’s no wonder that Cold Sweats became influenced, in part, by their surroundings, where a combination of an extremely raw punk sound, in addition to various aspects of post-hardcore, combined with darker and more eccentric influences such as The Cramps, for example, can be heard,. ‘Social Coma’ is an astute collection of ideas, compellingly executed, and one that stands (far) outside the usual formula and expectations when it comes to punk rock albums, which makes this long player one of the definite highlights of this year without any doubt.


Released 6 November

 

My War / Whiskey Song (Single)

The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

Safe & Sound Recordings

Coming together after the demise of a few former projects, the trio that is The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers see the release of their debut single this week. This first release is actually a digital only offering, with the tracks being presented as a double-sided single with ‘My War’ and ‘Whiskey Song’. As far as immediate impressions go, lead song, ‘My War’, hits the senses with an arresting vocal performance, in addition to a delicate and pensive musical accompaniment that also contains a few stings in its chords, magnificently expressed by the guitar hands of Thomas Bergsten and Kristine Marie Aasvang, who is also responsible for the aforementioned. Think Mazzy Star; think Cowboy Junkies, think a darkened corner of a barroom somewhere in the vicinity of Twin Peaks, and you’re close to an understanding of where the melancholic beauty of ‘My War’ resides. The second composition,’ Whiskey Song’, is the perfect companion, beginning with dreamy steel guitar and stunning vocal that holds a real sadness inside. This sadness becomes more apparent as the song wears on, as its tone becomes more resentful, to the point of almost mumbling, as it plots its revenge on a hapless former lover. The twist at the end of this song raises a wry smile, and is but one reason why a return visit to the music of The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers is a must the next time they’re in town.


Released Out now

 

Monochrome / Derailed (Single)

Leatherneck

FITA Records

By producing a sound that is more in line with the alternative rock and early grunge that was vastly popular during 90’s America, but not without notable mentions to the likes of early shoegaze with UK indie band Ride, the band at the centre of this glorious racket that is the double A side single, ‘Monochrome / Derailed’, is Leatherneck. The North West of England is the actual destination where Leatherneck has been busy constructing these two songs that run similar themes reflecting on life’s struggles, and the changes these can bring in terms of the people involved and how they’re perceived. The backdrop, musically, to both of these narratives is gritty and guitar-driven, but not without subtle melodic touches that can be heard during both numbers. For example, there’s a definite sweet edge to the guitars of ‘Monochrome’ that sweep along at considerable pace, and countered by the blunt edges of the vocal that makes for a compelling experience. The other offering, ‘Derailed’, is similar in its delivery, only the guitars possess a greater sheen (that’s not a reference to being commercial by the way) which, by the song’s conclusion, are sounding absolutely red hot. An EP is scheduled for next year which, on the basis of this current single, is worth further investigation, especially to see whether Leatherneck can expand on their sound to add variation to the quality set by ‘Monochrome / Derailed’.


Released Out now

 

Dead City Dreams

TimeKillers

Inverse Records / Secret Entertainment

Stemming from a remote part of Finland where the lifeblood of any such town is held in the local corner shop, punk-rock outfit, TimeKillers, and their debut album, ‘Dead City Dreams’, is a reactionary call to the boredom and despair that such an existence can ultimately bring. With song titles alluding to such anxiety and desperation, as well as having a habit of producing a wry smile (‘Friday The 13th‘, ‘Don’t Let Me Sleep’, ‘Mirage’), the sounds produced by TimeKillers is predominantly a straight-ahead punk-rock affair with a definite whiff of old-school surrounding it. There are some deviations from such an approach, with the restrained ‘Don’t Let Me Sleep’ that only reverts to type during its finale. The acoustic intro of ‘Happy People’ is another example where other ideas are attempted, despite the foot to the floor rhythm that eventually muscles in, yet it remains an interesting song for its lyrics, that purport to the dead-end existence of the small-town environment, and for the reason that it could function equally as well unplugged. This is a large part of the attraction here, as the honest emotions expressed, coupled with enough melodic touches via the choruses and then mixed with the rawness of the guitars makes for a heady concoction. Head straight to ‘The City’ for the TimeKillers strongest statement on all such levels, as it won’t be long until this band are heading in the opposite direction because there is much to get excited about when it comes to ‘Dead City Dreams’.


Released Out now

 

Nordic Tanzen Am Sonntag EP

Elefant

Elefant Music

Recorded live at Charlatan, Ghent, earlier this year, Elefant fill the room with a largely instrumental sound that contains warped guitars, kraut rock, sludge and interestingly, in their words, “nachtwinkel” that translates as night shop for their current EP ‘Nordic Tanzen Am Sonntag’. Opening track ‘Proteus’ is the stuff of late nights, where a nightmarish vision exists via sinister guitars with bouts of distortion, and a backbeat that gives the impression of wading through sludge and making for a very claustrophobic experience. Follow on track, ‘Smithers’, continues along similar lines, only its rhythm is struggling at greater depths with its bass scraping along the bottom yet, despite such adverse conditions, Elefant mange such difficulties by creating an impressive and absolute monster of a rhythm. From these two heavy slabs of instrumentation, the load lessens somewhat during ‘Elefanten’ with the guitars providing direction, yet still fuelling the band’s sound with a creepy element as heard by the skeletal tones of the guitars and additional keyboards. It’s not all about providing a soundtrack, however, as Elefant show that they can do conventional which, by their standards, is still some considerable distance from such a description with the concluding, and frenzied state of ‘Depression’, where instruments intertwine and go into overload with only brief respites via the lead vocal. A real surprise, and one that will take some adjusting to considering its off-kilter approach compared to what’s currently out there, Elefant’s ‘Nordic Tanzen Am Sonntag’ is a welcome addition as well as a welcome relief.


Released Out now

 

Seed Husk

Seed Husk

Inverse Records / Secret Entertainment

Seed Husk is an indie-rock five piece hailing from Finland, with an eponymously titled debut album released via the joint coupling of Inverse Records and Secret Entertainment. The material making up this debut album is definitely melodic guitar-based rock with nods of affection towards 90s era grunge and alternative rock. Such references are fully understood considering the wealth of experience at the centre of Seed Husk, as the band members have performed in various different bands prior to this latest project. With the album being recorded and mixed at Electric Fox Studios by Tuomas Kokko; mastered at Chartmakers by Svante Forsbäck, and with Seed Husk handling production, the first song from this debut album came in the form of ‘Hunt’. Those who were fortunate to hear this first single, prior to the release of the full-length album,  would have been right to think that they’re on to something special as the rest of the contents of ‘Seed Husk’ are of the same high consistency. The first song to make its impact is the driving indie-rock of ‘Overstay’ that sees Panu Perkiömäki adding passionate vocals to the tight, pummelling rhythm. There is even greater detail added to the sublime, ‘New Page’, with what sounds like a mandolin accompanying the acoustic guitar during its start-up, before going on to beef up its overall sound. The subsequent ‘Scavengers’ is less forgiving with a rawer edge to its overall sound, only to give way momentarily to a melodic chorus that really lifts this song. Where Seed Husk truly excel is their application of detail to each and every song, where considerable layers are added that steer these songs along different avenues, before getting back on track to reach their final destinations. It’s an impressive collection of songs and it goes by the name ‘Seed Husk’.


Released Out now

 

Patriarchs

Ruhe

Eilean Records

Limited to a mere 150 copies is the new ambient long player from Ruhe with ‘Patriarchs’. Mastered by Ian Hawgood in September this year, the work that is presented is largely a succession of instrumentals designed for the wee small hours that suggests nothing but a lonely, isolated state where the only company that exists are one’s own thoughts. Bleak as that may sound, the song writing crafted is of the highest calibre as it carefully depicts the loneliness by means of instrumentation that is raw and stripped back where you can almost sense the cold creeping in under the doorways or up through the cracks in the floorboards, adding further fuel to the melancholy of this album. Examples of this can be gleaned from the title track, ‘Patriarchs’, which plays out like a forgotten record player with a sustained hiss in the background and its piano accompaniment filling the space of cold empty rooms, only to be momentarily broken by the crackle of a faint voice that sounds equally forgotten and consequently left in time. Fragments of this track seep into the next song, ‘Felled’, with the piano, along with filtered harmonised vocals unearthing the beauty at the bottom of this instrumental in a combined effort towards its conclusion. Speaking of beautiful, ‘Guide’ adds shards of light via its piano melody but is frustratingly cut short midway through, due to changing direction and leaving one to ponder that, in life, you can’t have everything. With this album being a warts and all affair, ‘Shelter’ is probably the closest you will get to experiencing an artist at work where it’s the sound of ideas being tried out for the first time (piano lid closing, stools creaking, shuffling of feet, etc.) and then patched together. With ‘Patriarchs’ expressing an overall sense of solitude, never has such seclusion from the rest of the world sounded so appealing with the fragile compositions making up this album.


Released Out now

 

I lag med deg (Single)

Erik Lukashaugen

Øksekar

Named as a strong favourite by a number of critics in his homeland is the current single ‘I lag med deg’ from Erik Lukashaugen. The song itself is taken from the full album ‘Tel si elga tid’, which has also been on the end of some very fine words indeed, that makes for an encouraging start to the current campaign for this singer-songwriter from Elverum. The favourable words are fully justified once the folk and light country tones of ‘I lag med deg’ immediately arrives at a mid-paced tempo, that maintains itself for the duration of the song, with Erik Lukashaugen singing of his affections for another without ever sounding twee. The feelings expressed in this song are given further credence with a delightful vocal coming from Linn Øftsaas, who adds to the warm intimacy at the centre of this (third person) team. ‘I lag med deg’ is likely to win you over without really trying at all because it’s such an infectious and warm song, and one that will continue to worm its way to your heart six months down the line and there’s no greater feeling than that when it comes to song writing. A job well done!


Released Out now

 

På jorden et sted – Utvalgte Nordiske dikt

Finn Coren

Bard Records

Beautifully presented with the upmost care and attention to detail is the latest album by Finn Coren with ‘På Jorden et sted – Utvalgte Nordiske dikt’ (‘Somewhere On Earth – Selected Nordic Poems’). With this being his seventh solo album, and the third in a separate series that focuses on Nordic poets, Finn Coren has arranged his songs to provide an interpretation of the poetry from fourteen different Nordic poets. The poems selected will be familiar to those who grew up in such surroundings, or those who simply have a taste for Nordic culture, as the poetry centres on a selection of well-known classics from these regions, in addition to a few lesser known choices. Considering the level of detail gone into making these songs, it comes as no surprise that the majority of these tracks have been under construction for some considerable time. That’s not to say that Finn Coren has not received additional help in order to bring this latest album to life, as no less than four other musicians including Øyvind Fossheim (piano), Gjermund Kolltveit (Hardanger fiddle, kanklės), Stian Omenås (trumpet) and Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Mellotron, Chamberlin) contributed to the making of ‘På jorden et sted – Utvalgte Nordiske dikt’. With the chosen poetry relaying themes – three core themes in fact – concerned with life, love and death and inspired by classical and folk music, Finn Coren breathes the poetic words in a hushed manner that complements the often pared back sound of the instruments. ‘Salme’ is one such example where the vocals and largely grand piano provides an intimate experience that, in its combined state, drowns out all other external interferences such is the song’s alluring power. The intimacy grows even further with the pairing of acoustic guitar and faintest of horns during ‘Innbying’, that sees the vocals flit between the already mentioned whispered tones to spoken word passages making for a stirring piece of work. Finn Coren blossoms somewhat during ‘Sång’ and is accompanied by gorgeous sounding strings, only for the mood to blacken with the funeral procession feel of ‘Alle veier bort fra dig’ that, musically, could find a home on a Tom Waits album. With jagged edges all round adding to the compelling narrative of ‘Havet’, and the opening ‘Salme’ given another outing via an instrumental reworking, ‘På jorden et sted – Utvalgte Nordiske dikt’ is an absorbing experience full of light and shade, and one that is skilfully managed by way of its musicianship and chosen poetry that marks out album number seven for Finn Coren as really rather special.



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