10 May 2018

Middle Kids - Lost Friends

The alternative folk scene seems to be picking upstream at the moment, with the latest name on everyone's lips being Middle Kids.  From Sydney, Australia, Middle Kids are composed of singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, her husband Tim Fitz and drummer Harry Day.  At the moment, every pop-up add and radio jingle is something to do with Middle Kids.  They seem to be everywhere in my life, even before I started to review their debut album, Lost Friends.

Over twelve tracks, Lost Friends is a dozen stories of loves long gone, broken dreams and failed unions.  The first track I heard was "Mistake", which is the stand out track of the album.  With its combination of distortion, the sound of The Cranberries and Ryan Adams, it's a summer anthem in waiting.  In fact, the beginning of Lost Friends is one of the strongest I've heard in a long time.  The same feeling was there with "On My Knees", with its energy and noise, it makes the world a brighter place just for being there. When "Edge of Town" hits its chorus, I was convinced Lost Friends could be a possible world beater.

You may have noticed the past tense I used there,  Well dear reader, I have to confess Lost Friends loses steam as it goes along.  Something about the middle section from "Don't Be Hiding" onwards, the songs just fail to connect with me as instantly.  It's not as if Middle Kids change drastically at this point, but something subtle changes from that point onwards.  This is sadly a feeling I've not been able to shift, no matter how many times I listen to this album. It's a song like "Please" which seem to because help illustrates this for me.  Now, as a song, "Please" sounds decent enough, I'm sure some people will love it.  But for me, it doesn't hit the heights of those first few tracks.

Which brings me to the rub of the album, the album feels front-loaded, with the ending only occurring as the tracks have run out.  The flow of the record is a very important thing for people like me (ie - music nerds).  You could have the best songs in the world, but if the order is wrong, it can ruin an album.  Lost Friends is a record that has some brilliant songs on it, but suffers from putting all it's best tracks to the front.  But I think there is more to come from this band, they have potential and I hope they release a world beater.  If only to prove me wrong!

5 out of ten - Not for everyone, but well played

Top track - Mistake

You can purchase Lost Friends on Bandcamp here.

You can purchase Lost Friends on Amazon here. 

You can visit the Middle Kids website here. 

You can follow the activities of Middle Kids on Facebook here. 

You can stream Lost Friends on Spotify here.

You can stream Lost Friends on Deezer here. 

You can stream Lost Friends on Tidal here. 

Crossing the Limits - Perseverance

Crossing the Limits is a Norwich based pop-punk act, formed in 2016 and they have recently released their debut ep, Perseverance.  They have recently been making a lot of noise, starting to play places outside their native homelands.  They have named Neck Deep, State Champs, Tonight Alive and Against the Current as influences, so you know exactly what style of music you’re going to be listening to before it starts.  This is a self-released EP, so they’ve invested in themselves here.  They’ve also arranged for PR to push the EP, and I must at least apologise for my delay in this review.

But is the music any good?  Well, over the five tracks that make up Perseverance, I’ll be honest and say from the outset that there are no surprises here.   This is a five track EP with tracks about teenage loves, broken hearts, self-exploration and tomorrow’s dreams coming alive.  These are always standard themes for pop-punk, they will be explored time and time again.  This is not to say that Crossing the Limits aren’t good at what they do, but if these themes were not your thing before, this EP is not going to be your cup of tea.

However, if you like your punk to be poppy, to sound like a female fronted Homegrown and for a talent bunch of young people making well-crafted pop-punk, you could do a hell of a lot worse than CtL.  “Reverse” is the highlight of the record for me, an anthem for people who don’t want to be treated like crap, who know their self-worth. Pop-punk is also a genre that can sound stale extremely quickly, and I'm happy to report that CtL keeps things fresh throughout this EP.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say this is ground-breaking, that this re-writes the rulebook.  It’s pretty standard stuff in a genre that has incredibly fixed perimeters.  I’m also not the right audience for this band, my tastes are completely different to the sound these guys are playing.  Yet, why should I not be able to appreciate the effort that has gone into this, to be able to see the dedication to their chosen sound?  It might not be for me, but Crossing the Limits are good at what they do.  That is all you can hope for at times, and I hope that they hit the goals they aim for.  The Perseverance EP is well played, warm and will be a hit with its target audience. 

3.5 out of five – Decent, getting there.

Top track - Reverse

6 May 2018

Sticker Gitters - An overview

Ask and you shall receive. 

Sticker Gitters are a collective label, dealing in lo-fi, freak scene and general noise.  These are very lazy words if I'm being honest, but this is just a general introduction to the map cap/bat crap crazy world that is these guys and girls.  Started in the last couple of years, their turnover of releases and tracks is humongous.  I mean, they keep asking me to review stuff, but then they release another, then another and so on.  It's quite exhausting to follow, also sometimes they delete old mixes and add new ones.

Which is a wonderful thing in some ways, it shows that music is an organic and constantly evolving.  It also means that you have to keep an eye on them as well.  Their mission statement is shown on their Facebook page read as follows:

Masters of the mini-comps (compilation, maximum diversity). Philadelphia underground to NASHVILLE. Download us to your mobile, you can figure it out.

We Promise no changes to any albums more than a week old. Disclaimer: Please Allow for one day of processing each release due to our manic state.

2018 onward one-person-and-a-computer hub (literally) of Nashburo/ville.

NO DUPLICATE ORIGINALS, diversityismyreligion

Weak and thin sounding tracks do not need mastering, they need better frequency distribution. All frequencies matter. Send us your tracks for the free new wave of mastering stickergitters@gmail.com.

So, let's look at a couple of their releases, which will probably change in a few weeks times.....

F. Hero - The Lord of Crack

The Lord of Crack is an electo-noise six-track release, which was one half of SCG split 001.  Each track is a short blast of noise, with random breaks and sounds appearing and disappearing out of earshot.  The further in you descend into this noise, the higher the intensity becomes.  In keeping with the tone of the label, it's not easy listening.  But, you don't come to SG for easy.  Also, that cover is truly terrifying.

ace quaalude - heat death electric

I reviewed this release last year, here is what I had to say then!

Lo-fi music is such a wonderful art form, one that is often frowned upon which is such a shame as it has a lot to offer.  heat death electric is a shining example of everything that is right with the genre, it has a personality that transcends to a higher level.  Some people would use words like Bohemian and avant-garde; for me, it is just a quality Lo-fi, Noise Rock release that has a charm which cannot be denied.  When they are on point, they make some fantastic noise!  Do yourself (and ace quaalude) a favour, check this out as it will not disappoint you!

Charlotte Velvet - Whiplassie

Whiplassie is one of the shorter releases from SG, three songs of various style.  The first is Avante Garde noise with a spoken word introduction, the second starts is a song that sounds like it could be a mournful ballad (but it could also be a sarcastic jazz track) and the last one is a heavy bass electro number that sounds amazing.  Each of the tracks is a short insight into their minds, but they are also far too short as well.  But this is part of the territory when you listen to SG, sometimes these tracks are revisited, I hope that is the case here.

Jonah Sky - Josh Toholsky is JONAH SKY Download Sampler and Foreshadow

This is one of the easier listens on this label, an acoustic guitar driven project that is a stark contrast to the other releases on SG.  But I love that they have given this album a release. But this album also has noise bombs, the sixth track is unexpected and I love that sort of surprise.  I'll let you discover those little sound nuggets yourselves, but trust me - you won't be disappointed.  A lot of people might pass this one by, but they would be fools for doing so. Josh Toholsky is JONAH SKY Download Sampler and Foreshadow is a brilliant record, one which haunts you for long after it has finished.

This is just a small sampler of the releases that are released by SG, there are a lot more on their Bandcamp page and they're always changing shit.  I love that labels with this sort of mission exist, you need little pools of insanity to make the world a better place.  Check them out now!

You can download and stream anything from stickergitters.com on their Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the follow their lunacy on Facebook here.

2 May 2018

The Armed - Only Love

If you've ever read this blog before, you should already be acquainted with Detroit mavericks The Armed/⋈.  If not, you can check out our previous reviews here.  It's been three years since Untitled and two since their live record Unanticipated.  I've been waiting with impatient anticipation for Only Love to be released, I need a dose of chaos every now and then.  The first rumbling of this record started in February, ⋈ started to post accord Facebook and Instagram that music was coming,   Dropping "Witness" with Ben Koller from Converge February 15th, ⋈ unleashed a wave of noise that has been on repeat for a lot of the year.  Then, there was the video for "Role Models" featuring Tommy Wiseau, which was released via Adult Swim.  That was a ballsy move and a show of intent.  ⋈ has set themselves up for one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, so how has it turned out?

Only Love can best be described as anger incarnate.  ⋈ have not softened their style one iota for this release, if anything, they have sharpened their claws and are primed to attack. From "Witness" to "On Jupiter", there is no relenting, it's attack, attack, attack!  Due to this all out onslaught, this album will have weaker mortals running for cover.  Only Love is also not just a noisy album for noise's sake.  There is a focus to this madness, a strange understanding to the guitars and a fuck load of attitude in the mix. The way "Parody Warning" starts with a cough and then erupts into that wonderous noise is fantastic, the same can be said for "Heavily Lined" as it comes from left field and smashes your brain to a bloody pulp.  "On Jupiter" is my favourite song of Only Love,  ⋈ have outdone themselves here with a mixture of noise, sinister slow passages and an all-out feedback attack on the audio senses.

Whilst I am in awe of the performances from ⋈ on Only Love, it is not an easy album by any means.  If you're new to their world, expect a violent hurricane of sound to erupt from your speakers.  If you're familiar with them, it's a little more unhinged than before.  Whilst I might never get the instant shock of "Forever Scum" ever again,  I can appreciate what ⋈ have done here. Each of these tracks is still a fantastic piece of art/violence.  Only Love is a brilliant record, one that will help the legend of ⋈ grow further.  It has been said that there is nothing new to come from Hardcore, that punk has plateaued. There are some who say that nothing else of interest will appear from the genre ever again.  ⋈ would like to challenge that train of thought, to give that concept a good old kick in the bollocks and to destroy your preconception of noise.  Hardcore is dead, long live ⋈!

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....

Top track - On Jupiter

You can purchase Only Love from The Armed Bandcamp page here.
You can follow the activities of The Armed on Facebook here.

You can stream Only Love on Spotify here.

You can stream Only Love on Deezer here.

You can stream Only Love on Tidal here.

27 April 2018

Laura Veirs - The Lookout

I first fell under the charms of Laura Veirs via Starbucks of all things.  This might not be a fashionable thing to say something started at a major corporate coffee chain, but that’s what happened.  Way back in the day, Starbucks had a little arrangement with iTunes, giving away little cards with free downloads to tracks.  One such download was titled something like Americana Ladies or Women of Folk.  I’m generally a sucker for any free music, so I decided to check it out.  As you’ve probably correctly assumed, there was a Laura Veirs track on this download.  It was “July Flame”, taken from the album of the same name.  It was head and shoulders above everything else on that download.  It left such a positive impression that, if I'm honest, I’m struggling to remember the other tracks.  But I do remember “July Flame” vividly.  It was like being knocked over by a gentle breeze, it became a mainstay on my playlists for a long time, which still makes regular appearances occasionally.

From that moment, I was hooked on her music.  She describes her writing style as personal, but not overtly confessional, which is a beautiful statement.  If you’ve ever listened to any of her work, this is also very obvious.  The Lookout is her first solo album since 2013’s Warp and Weft, also following from the female alt. country super album veirs/lang/case.  As beautiful an album as veirs/lang/case was, it’s felt like an eternity since the last solo Laura Veirs release.  But here is the question that I must now contemplate – is The Lookout any good?

Over the course of twelve melodic laden tracks, Ms. Veirs has created the standout album of her career.  I say that in full knowledge of her back catalogue, this album is her pinnacle.  From the opening notes of “Margaret Sands”, via the questioning “The Lookout”, towards the insanely catchy “Watch Fire” and ending with heart-breaking “Zozobra”, The Lookout is everything I could have wanted and much more.  Each song is a little piece of a story that you’re invited to view, but you never truly find out the ending.  It’s both open and closed at the same time, which is truly refreshing.  I love this Alt. Country album, it’s a perfect companion for all occasions.

Are there any flaws?  Well, yes and no.  The only flaw it has, in my opinion, is that it ends.  Apart from that, it’s a perfect record.  It leaves you wanting more, there is a beautiful loss to the music and it stays with you long after the final notes have rung out.  This might be a short review, but it’s an honest one.  This is another classic record from one of my favourite artists, she is a trailblazer and The Lookout will be in my top albums of 2018, you can bank on that.

10 out of ten – This is proof that there is a deity.

Top track – The Lookout

You can purchase The Lookout on Amazon here.

You can visit the Laura Veirs website here.

You can follow the activities of Laura Veirs on Facebook here.

You can stream The Lookout on Spotify here.

You can stream The Lookout on Deezer here.

You can stream The Lookout on Tidal here.

21 April 2018

Andrew W.K - You're Not Alone

Andrew W.K. is quite possibly one of the happiest men in the world! Or at the very least, one of the most positive individuals that you’ll ever find on this sphere going through space.  When he first burst on the scene with I Get Wet, his blood-stained face was everywhere.  You couldn't go anywhere without hearing “Party Hard”, it seemed like he was about to take over the world.  Since then, he has (unfairly) been deemed a one-hit wonder in the UK, subsequent albums were largely ignored and the world had moved forward. And that is a shame when you think about it.

o, what did Andrew W.K. do whilst the world ignored him?  He kept on doing his own thing, and rightly so!  He’s not stopped playing gigs, he’s been an agony uncle, his Facebook & Twitter feeds are full of positivity.  And most importantly, he’s never stopped partying.  Whether you love or hate his music, you should doth your cap to him.  To keep on your chosen path and being true to yourself, that is the dream and he’s certainly living it!

You’re Not Alone is Andrew W.K.'s seventh studio album, it's also his first since 55 Cadillac & Gundam Rock in 2009. The momentum behind You're Not Alone before its release was strong.  Since its release, that momentum has continued, as its gained a life of its own.  Before I give my opinion of the record, I want to note that I love the fact that this album is reaching so many people. You can see that by the way people are connecting, the reaction it's received has been uplifting.  However, when it all comes down to the nitty-gritty, it’s all down to the music.  You can be the nicest person in the world, but if the music is not up to scratch, then all that positivity would be for nothing.  So, is You’re Not Alone any good?

You’re Not Alone represents the serious side of Andrew W.K., the counterbalance to the all-out, gung-ho party animal of his earlier works.  Much like his earlier albums, there is little to no deviation musically on this album.  All the songs are powerful numbers, in major keys with hard synths, shout-along chorus sections, loud guitars and so much hope that it sometimes becomes too much.  The main subject matter is connections, realising that there are people to reach out to.  It's about never to isolate yourself and whilst life can be hard, it can be fun at the same time.  I love that, it’s so beautiful and inspiring that it would feel like kicking a puppy criticising that uplifting message.

However, I’m not blind to the flaws on this record.  Firstly, if you didn’t like Andrew W.K. before, this might not change that opinion. As mentioned earlier, it’s another album of similar sounding songs.  Whilst all the songs aren't all in the same key, they share a similar structure and that's always been his Achilles heel.  Also, it's a little too long, fewer songs would have made this a tighter record. 

What I cannot deny though, is how positive this record sounds.  It's so infectious, so uplifting and life-affirming.  Whilst Andrew W.K. is all about the party, but he never tells you what should be your own "party".  Once you've figured out what that is, what makes you happy, what is your own "party", You're Not Alone makes so much sense.

Maybe you should try it, maybe it will be the album to change your opinion, maybe it needs to be on repeat when you’re down.  I can only speak for myself, but after a pretty shit time recently, this record has made my outlook on life a lot happier over the last few days. Ultimately, You’re Not Alone is one of the brightest spots in 2018, a high note in his career and a joy to behold. Keep on partying!

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track - The Party Never Dies

You can purchase You’re Not Alone on Amazon here.

You can visit the Andrew W.K. website here.

You can follow the activities of Andrew W.K. on Facebook here.

You can stream You’re Not Alone on Spotify here.

You can stream You’re Not Alone on Deezer here.

You can stream You’re Not Alone on Tidal here.

20 April 2018

Shame - Songs of Praise

The first I've heard of Shame was late last year, probably around October.  I got a message telling me to listen to Shame, comparing them to what an emo band would sound like if they had been brought up on Fugazi and Compulsion.  To coin a phrase, I was coloured intrigued at that point.  A short backstory - Songs of Praise is the debut album of South London Shame.  They have been courted by the press over the last few months, which reached fever pitch in January when Songs of Praise was released.  They have sold out venues up and down the country, they've toured America gaining fans on the other side of the pond and will be heading out for another headline tour of the UK later in the year.  All things at this point seem to be coming up with roses, but is the praise deserved?

Shame can best be described as a quintessential English Indie band, that have some Americanisms in their style.  You can hear so many other bands in their sound, but with a huge amount of their own style.  You can hear the work of Fugazi, Pavement, Henry Rollins and other American artists (either directly or indirectly), as well as a sound akin to bands like Compulsion, Placebo and the hard biting words of people like Frank Carter and other angry people with lots to say.  This is an angry album for an angry time, there are seeds of discontent within these songs and it’s not an album that you can relax with ease.

Starting with “Dust on the Trail”, the band sound almost gothic in places with that harrowing sound to their guitars, this theme is revisited on “The Lick”, a dark and sinister rant against the world.  Even the ending of this album is a moody number, “Angie” is a number that has a comedown feeling to it, making you wonder if anything is ever going to go right for anyone. However, for the most part, this is an energetic and vibrant album.  Songs like the majestic “Concrete”, the riff-smasher “Donk” and the epic “Gold Hole” are all world beaters.  It’s a true surprise to hear an album so composed being displayed by a band that is so young and not very far into their journey/career.

Songs of Praise is a brilliant debut album, a fantastic record that will have other bands wondering why they didn’t think of these songs before.  It’s an album by a band who are hungry for success, who have a fire in their belly and that is never something that can be reproduced artificially.  So, why have I given it an eight, why not a higher mark?  Well, to be honest, I originally gave it a nine, but somehow it felt wrong.  This could turn out to be one of my records of the year, but I’ll have to wait and see about that.  Songs of Praise is as good a debut as any band could ever hope for.  If this is their high-water mark, then the band cannot complain to be honest, as this is thirty-nine minutes of aggressive indie/punk rock that hits the spot.

8 out of ten  - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track – Concrete

You can purchase Songs of Praise on Amazon here.

You can purchase Songs of Praise from the Shame Bandcamp page here.

You can visit the Shame website here.

You can follow the activities of Shame on Facebook here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Spotify here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Deezer here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Tidal here.

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