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Losing All My Friends (EP)

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Not to be dissuaded by the Metal connotations immediately implied by their moniker, Monster Jaw is, in fact, a far closer associate to the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle during the 90s, and even closer to home psychedelic rock of the same time period. Having impressed greatly with their first effort ‘Get A Tattoo’, Monster Jaw decided to team up with Belgian producer Wes Maebe (The Libertines, Paul Rogers, Roger Waters and Robert Plant) once again for their current EP. The end results see Monster Jaw progress quite considerably with a tighter edge to their overall compositions and with any excesses well and truly trimmed. Such an example can be ascertained from opener ‘Losing All Friends (Radio Edit)’ with its lively yet slightly fuzzy-edged guitars setting the pace, and built around a catchy chorus bemoaning the gradual departure of one’s comrades at the expense of a close relationship. Running adjacent to this, in terms of the quality stakes, with its direct rhythm and smatterings of psychedelic indie rock inducing a compelling high via its chorus, is the quite magnificent ‘Low’. Thankfully, the pleasure ride is not ready to cease just yet as the double helping of Jesus & Mary Chain, who happened to inspire the sounds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, can be heard with ‘Lidocaine’ and intriguing ‘Do It Gay, Do It Straight’. ‘Losing All My Friends’ EP is the sound of a band edging ever closer to a creative understanding that was outlined in the blueprints when the trio of Mik Davis, John Bradford and Neil Short decided to pursue this venture. If Monster Jaw maintain their current trajectory, then their debut album will be one not to miss out on.


Released Out now

 

Still Undead

The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters

Inverse Records

Harking back to a 70s era when rock music was truly free, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters revive such memories via their debut album release ‘Still Undead’. First indication of such linkages to music’s past is the manner in which ‘Still Undead’ was recorded, by using methods including portable studios often in various locations out on the road when touring. More obvious signs, however, exist in the band’s actual sound consisting of mild, loose rock and rounded off with some mystical song titles that leave one thinking of numerous bands from that particular era. With the location of Finland housing the songs making up ‘Still Undead’, it’s America which provides the inspiration as The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters create a number of songs full of catchy choruses or, alternatively, more drawn out tracks such as the ‘K-Town River Banks’ with its keyboard and guitar riffs towing this along admirably. Lead vocalist and founder, Markku Pihlaja, provides a slightly gruff edge to the songs and remains relatively calm throughout, without ever resorting to any form of histrionics in order to get the messages across. Such examples can be found with the social conscience that is ‘Cry For The Ocean’ where both band and singer go about their business in an unfussy manner yet the song still manages to seep under one’s skin with seemingly very little effort at all. This is one of the aspects that make ‘Still Undead’ an appealing album because the majority of its contents will catch you unaware due to a certain amount of subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. For example, the natural aspects of the vocal and engaging chorus of ‘Soulseeker’ or the travelling notion via its rhythm given to ‘Giants’, which bides its time before hitting its soaring chorus, are two such examples. Given time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters can certainly carve out a name for themselves beyond their native Finland by transmitting ‘Still Undead’ to an America audience where it should find a welcoming home considering its affiliations with American 70’s rock.


Released 11 February

 

Den Morronen

Thåström

Sony Music Norway

Regarded as one of Sweden’s most important artists, Thåström is primed with new album ‘Den Morronen’. Following on from his last excursion, that was the rather successful ‘Beväpna Dig Med Vingar’, this latest release follows in similar footsteps with a considerable amount of reflective and darkened tales set to an electronic musical backdrop. Made up of nine tracks, ‘Den Morronen’ was produced in a combined effort by Thåström, Niklas Hellberg and Ulf Ivarsson, with fellow musicians Pelle Ossler, Conny Nimmersjö and Anders Hernestam coming on board to help realise the album’s contents, which were recorded in the locations of Berlin, Stockholm and Karlstad, it soon becomes clear that much effort has gone into this latest album. Kicking things off with the dour beat of ‘Gräsfläckar’ and proceeding along the same lines with the album’s title track, Thåström illuminates such dark tales with his poetic way with words, that are often expressed in a croaked manner and has an ability to sound world-weary without necessarily meaning so. It’s the attention to detail of these tales, however, that compels best of all, with the rattling of everyday life – surface noise as a certain Mr Peel referred to – in the background of the passionate ‘Ner Mot Terminanlen’; funeral march feel to ‘Kom Med Mig’ and the unfolding drama of ‘Alltid Va På Väg’ that will see the name Thåström continue to be highly regarded in his homeland but, hopefully, elsewhere as well because ‘Den Morronen’ is deserving of a much broader audience.


Released Out now

 

Keep Forever (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Biding her time and taking the old-fashioned route to possible future glories is Norwegian singer-songwriter Frøder. The less is more paradigm certainly works here as Frøder is steadily building her way to recognition in her own country by a succession of single releases with ‘Keep Forever’ being the latest addition. By adopting this patient approach seems to be working as the Bergen-based artist has received substantial airplay for previous singles – ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘Over The Sea’ – and recently Spotify selected Frøder as a name to watch in 2015 via their ‘Spotlight Artists’ category. The patient approach and gradual progression in terms of her work can definitely be heard in latest single ‘Keep Forever’, as it is by far Frøder’s most memorable effort for its effective use of keys that joyously tingle under the skin and then hold back to allow the vocal to express itself. If Frøder continues such an approach to her song writing, then the full-length album should be something truly worth waiting for when that time duly arrives.


Released Out now

 

The Drive To Taxonomy

Craig Ward & Radboud Mens

Jezus Factory Records

Freedom over expression is definitely the way forward and something Jezus Factory continue to provide with the latest project from Craig Ward & Radboud Mens’ ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’. Seemingly unable to switch off the creative thoughts accumulating in his mind, Craig Ward, who is known for his work with a diverse bunch of musical outfits including dEUS, Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen and, more recently, a collaboration with Mark Mulholland, wheels out his latest release on a previously thought extinct format (i.e. cassette) as a limited edition, and with no real press release other than a discussion involving what constitutes as a ‘real’ record label these days. Driven by practicalities regarding the decision involving a cassette release, as well as moving away from the standard CD format for this particular occasion, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ consists of two sides of experimental, ambient, electronic music.  The pulse is barely audible once the first side of ‘Parts 1, 2 & 3’ gets underway, with shards of light becoming visible gradually, and then made more prominent by bouts of droning and stabs of electronica that eventually breaks off into smaller pockets of sounds that bleep and whirr incessantly before finding their way to the surface. Side two is a coarser terrain, with electronic sounds jarring and fizzing, but most notable is the fullness given to the overall sound where segments are plumper in their expressions and the volume is given a boost, yet ever so sparingly. As with most instrumental efforts, individual interpretations will vary greatly such are its qualities to drum up different feelings with each and every listen. Therefore, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ is no different from such interpretations because its qualities are endless due to the many different levels this album inhabits.


Released Out now

 

Are You With Me (single)

Lost Frequencies

Armada Music / Sony Music

According to the statisticians at YouTube, Lost Frequency certainly made a name for themselves with an earlier version of current single ‘Are You With Me’ that managed to clock up a hefty one million plus viewers, in addition to a whole bunch of remixes which saw viewing figures nearly go through the roof. Having finally made the transition to a fully-fledged release, ‘Are You With Me’ should entice the same level of support when it comes to purchasing said single considering its calm electronic rhythm, mild beats and soft vocal combining into a rather persuasive force. Having found its niche within electronic dance music, Lost Frequencies has a tendency to lean toward other influences which, upon closer inspection, the likes of One Republic can be heard in relation to ‘Are You With Me’ and therefore likely to appeal to those more attuned to indie rock with a side order containing elements of dance music.


Released Out now

 

Time

Micky Ekko

Sony Music

It has been two years since the collaboration with Rihanna on the huge success that was ‘Stay’, but now Micky Ekko is ready to open his own recording account with the album ‘Time’. Whether a stretch working on production duties and honing his skills as a songwriter was deemed necessary by Ekko himself, then the wait has been worthwhile because ‘Time’ is an assured long player. Such an assertion can be gleaned from the confident manner of opening song ‘Watch Me Rise’, as it remains strong in its pursuit of hard fought goals while others equally deserving of success fall before the final hurdle. By making use of synths and other electronics, Micky Ekko creates a broad palette of sounds that, when combined, delivers a series of memorable songs such as the passionate ‘Love You Crazy’ and soulful vocals of ‘U’. There is a darker twist to this album as well, which makes itself clear with the down on its luck narrative of ‘Smile’; rockier rhythm of the quite superb ‘Riot’ and then change of tactic, instrumentally, with the introduction of acoustic guitar and orchestral strings adding to the plaintive emotions contained within the album’s title song. By setting his own path for creative discovery and seemingly given the freedom to do so – the doubleheader containing the use of the word doves for example – Micky Ekko is a beguiling talent and one who has just written an album’s worth of equally fascinating material that is, at times, accessible and on other occasions demands a bit more from its listeners, which is precisely what you get with ‘Time’ and gratefully so.


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Title

Meghan Trainor

Sony Music Norway

Whatever your personal preferences are when it comes to music, Meghan Trainor has been a hotbed of discussion since the smash hit ‘All About That Bass’ cleverly spread its message by means of an infectious melody and smart lyrics urging women to ignore the ubiquitous stereotypical imagery of the female form, and instead learn to love themselves for who they are. Another aspect of Meghan Trainor’s life that is equally newsworthy is the fact she has been writing music for other artists for some considerable time, as well as being in the enviable position of having issued three albums while still in high school! Bearing such facts in mind, it comes as no surprise that the 20-year old from Massachusetts has a gifted knack for song writing, which becomes evident once the 50s flavoured pop, with shrewd lyrics nicely flipped to be in line with the present generation, grabs hold of your senses during ‘Dear Future Husband’. The frankness of words extends to the pared back instrumentation of ‘Close Your Eyes’ by offering encouragement to others without ever being preachy. Having gained experience from earlier bouts of song writing as mentioned before, Meghan Trainor has set a fine balance of songs that are, on the one hand, influenced by dance and pop music as well as old-school hip-hop beats (‘Bang Dem Sticks’, ‘Lips Are Movin’, ‘3am’) and then, on the other hand, stringed ballads (‘What If I’) and more roots-based tracks (‘Like I’m Gonna Lose You’). With so much to offer, ‘Title’ has set a very high precedent for others to follow in 2015 because it’s an album blessed with intuitive lyrics, wonderful melodies and a rather fine voice, which suggests that Meghan Trainor is certainly not ‘All About That Bass’!


Released Out now

 

How We Used To Love (single)

Siv Jakobsen

The Nordic Mellow

Drumming up inspiration for a song idea can be a troublesome task for many artists, but it is a process that sometimes derives from the strangest of places or situations whereby the creative spark that has been absent for a period of time suddenly ignites in to life. Such a process occurred for singer-songwriter Siv Jakobsen, albeit under a stressful episode, when her car careered in to the rear of a vehicle somewhere on the outskirts of San Francisco due to a lapse in concentration. The saving grace from this particular episode was that it helped to inspire the opening line of first single ‘How We Used To Live’, which was recorded at Ant Food, Virtue & Vice and Stadium Red Studios in Brooklyn NY. The single itself is a parting of the ways of a former relationship gone sour, but one that still weighs heavy on the mind judging by the sadness held in the vocal with its mumbled expression given added sorrow by the delicate tinkling of piano and guitar strings. With comparisons being made to Ane Brun and Laura Marling, ‘How We Used To Love’ is a sincere recollection of a period in time that still has the ability to twinge the senses as far as its author is concerned, which earmarks Siv Jakobsen as one to watch.


Released Out now

 

Don’t Panic

Missiles of October

P.O.G.O. Records

Without wishing to set alarm bells ringing, Missiles of October couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time considering the political turmoil that is escalating in a number of countries right now. Judging by the raging intensity of their debut album ‘Don’t Panic’, one can surmise that there are a few issues this three-piece band wish to get off their chest. While such matters may not be of a political nature, the topics on offer are equally sensitive and concern problems associated with addiction, loss and general dissatisfaction with everyday living. Plying a scuzzy slab of punk rock fused with elements of metal and hardcore, Missiles of October project forth an intense racket that is best served by the likes of ‘Wannabe’ with its skewered guitars and the abrasive surface of the white-hot ‘Cheerleader’. Such examples are complemented by ‘Two Feet In Sludge’, which gives a rather fine impression of wading through a quagmire with its guitars deep in the mire and lead vocal struggling to remain above the surface, topped off by the tight rhythm and murky tone of ‘Dance With Me’. Missiles of October is certainly raging at the various inequalities felt and struggles associated with such disparities, but there is also a sense of biding their time in order to transmit their frustrations in the most effective manner as suggested by the overall title of this body of work.

 


Released Out now

 

Classics

She & Him

Sony Music

The duo of vocalist Zooey Deschanel and guitarist/vocalist M. Ward interpret a collection of standards dating from the1930s, and conclude around the latter half of the 1970s. Having wheeled in a twenty-piece orchestra to add to the dextrous guitar playing and fine vocals, the moods and sounds of the various periods focused on here are often recaptured; the smoky jazz feel of ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ being one such example that transports the listener back to its original conception in 1934. With ‘Classics’ having been recorded during a two week period, the attention to detail and warm intimacy Deschanel and Ward bring to the majority of songs is quite remarkable and, in the process, allows for an insight into the artists and compositions which enthralled them during their early years and, in many ways, has influenced their career to date. Speaking loudly in terms of its performance, ‘Teach Me Tonight’ is the very essence of a duo having sharpened their trade, and now leading from the front with a wealth of experience, such is the song’s graceful delivery. By adding heavyweight numbers, as far as their status goes, with French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour’s ‘She’, given a husky rendition by M. Ward, and the often associated ‘Unchained Melody’ with the Righteous Brothers, despite being recorded by several different artists during the 50s, given a pared back rendition. The infectious sway of ‘Stay Awhile’, however, beats all to the finishing line with Deschanel’s vocal intoxicating and highlighting the ethereal qualities sitting at the back of her throat, complimented by the subtle twang of guitar that reintroduces Dusty Springfield’s minor hit back in ’64 to great effect. It’s business as usual as She & Him can do nothing wrong because ‘Classics’ is another fine album in their steadily increasing repertoire.


Released Out now

 

The Dream Walker

Angels & Airwaves

To The Stars

Tom DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves is clear for launch with a fresh album and accompanying promotional extras. More than just a side project as new album ‘The Dream Walker’ is part of a multimedia package, with the previously mentioned promotional extras incorporating an animated film and graphic novel; with the former media source having already scooped the award for ‘Best Animation’ at the Toronto Film Festival. Such deep personal involvement also extends itself to a few of the songs’ narratives, with ‘Tunnels’ being one of the most significant due to paying reference to DeLonge’s father who passed away. Another personal aspect which has attached itself to this latest album release is DeLonge’s passion for music as the songs making up ‘The Dream Walker’ consist of a number of finely pulled strands from a variety of sources that only reveal themselves fleetingly, such is the experience at hand here. Bound up tightly and moving along at a rapid rate with its combination of guitars, drums and electronics is the ball of angst that is ‘Teenagers and Rituals’. It would appear that somebody has clearly done their homework as next song in line ‘Paralyzed’ gives the impression of being the aftershock from what has gone before, with its cold chamber guitars intro and grinding rhythm that remains persistent throughout despite opening up in to a more melodic beast. A further sense of detachment is given by the electronic 80’s pulses of ‘Kiss With A Spell’, which really does shine way beyond the emotional gaping void suggested here. There is an epic feel to ‘Tremors’ heightened by its Edge-esque guitars ringing melodically, only to have its sweetness curdled by the more abrasive, yet utterly compelling force that is ‘Mercenaries’. As already mentioned, Angels & Airwaves is far from being a mere side project until the other full-time occupation readies itself for action because ‘The Dream Walker’ is a consistently engaging piece of work and one that is deserved of a successor if, and when the time comes.



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