18 July 2018

Addie Brik - I Have a Doctor on Board

Addie Brik is an American artist who currently resides in Scotland, she relocated to the UK in the late 90's and has been building a steady career after being found by Peter Gabriel via a demo many moons ago.  This discovery ended up (in part) leading to a deal with Geffen records, as well as collaborations/co-writes with artists such as Fishbone, Sugarhill Gang, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wendy & Lisa and many more.  To be honest, I only really heard about her when I received a press release from a PR company.  However, I have to say that I was impressed by the sound of the record, as well as the title.

I Have a Doctor on Board is her twelfth release (by counting the releases on her website), it was recorded in Glasgow, wrote in a small flat looking at the Firth of Clyde.  The album is based on conversations that Addie Brik had with an inventor and a lifeboat captain in Scotland, the record puts technology in a sailboat with songs about freedom, curiosity and community.   It is also influenced by the Scottish coastline which Ms Brik's calls home.  To be honest, I find that level of detail fascinating.  To have an artist research her work, submerge herself into the work with this details is something I applaud before I even look at the music.  But that is what we are here for, to look at the album and find out how it sounds.

Firstly, I could make some very lazy assumptions about this album by the first few songs.  Because of the use of multi-layered vocals on this album, it has a sound akin to Tori Amos/Kate Bush in places vocally.  But that would be disrespectful to Ms Brik, who has an individual voice which has a depth of its own and brings passion and warmth to these songs.  Once you start to look at this record without those preconceptions and comparisons to other artists, you free the record and it transforms into something else.

Next, you look at the music itself.  Broadly speaking, there is a mixture of folk, dream pop and indie on I Have a Doctor on Board.  Songs such as "Velocity Made Good", "Birding", "Cape Flyaway" (my personal favourite) and the much heralded "Belly" are fine examples of an artist in full control of her vision on this album.  Whilst I was listening to this before I read the press release in depth, you could feel a nautical theme to the album.  The songs can be as gentle, but suddenly turn violent, much like the sea.  You can hear that in each of the songs, it's embedded into the record.  I also love the ordering of this album, you can lose yourself for hours on end on this record, with each song wiping away the worries of the day.

Are there any negatives here?  To be honest, anything I put here would be superficial.  I would be looking for arguments which don't exist.  It is a gentle record, a calming and soothing album, one that has a strong will and passion underneath it.  Over the next few days and weeks, I'm going to make an effort to check out Addie Brik's back catalogue as this is a fantastic introduction to this artist.  I Have a Doctor on Board is an album that keeps giving after each spin, revealing more about itself all the time.  I might regret later on in the year not giving this a higher mark, but I do recommend you go out and purchase this now.

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

Top track - Cap Flyaway

You can purchase I Have a Doctor on Board on Amazon here.

You can visit the Addie Brik website here. 

You can follow the activities of Addie Brik on Facebook here. 

You can stream I Have a Doctor on Board on Spotify here. 

You can stream I Have a Doctor on Board on Deezer here. 

You can stream I Have a Doctor on Board on Tidal here.

9 July 2018

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I think that regular readers of this blog might say I can be prone to what some might call “knee-jerk” reactions.  Some would also say it takes me an eternity to post anything, but that is down work life/blog life/real life balance.  But sometimes it’s best to take a step away from something you want to talk about, to let it breathe and expand in your mind.  I decided to do this with Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino.  The latest Arctic Monkeys record has been controversial to say the least, the critics and fans have been having a field day with it, loving and hating it in equal measure.  To be honest, the last time I saw a reaction like this was when Morbid Angel released Illud Divinum Insanus.  It has been that hostile in place, but it’s also been interesting to be outside the debate.

Cards on the table time - apart from a few songs, I’ve never been the biggest follower of the Sheffield lads.  They’ve always been a band that seems to be name-dropped by everyone and have the odd good tune.  But I’ve never thought of them as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll, they just always been filed under “decent, if unimaginative” in my mind.  But you cannot say that they’ve played it by the book on Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino. If anything, the book is on fire and now it's anyone's guess at their next move.
For Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, they have pretty much-flipped styles and went lounge.  The noise indie kids of old are gone, in its place is a Las Vegas lounge and a few martinis on the side.  The first time I heard it, I thought it might be a joke album, a fake release to throw people off the scent of their new record.  But sure enough, upon checking it on various streaming platforms, they’ve gone and done it.

Firstly, I applaud this ballsy move.  No matter what I think of this record, good or bad, I love it when this happens.  When a major artist is ready to do something that sends them into the left field of their own sound, that's a joy to witness.  The nerves required for this sort of thing or gigantic, you can easily fuck everything up that you’ve worked for, so bravo for that.  Secondly, to release this sort of album in the age of clone pop, where sounding similar to the heard is a safe way to fame is difficult to get right.  One slip, you're done.  Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino has a lot of things going against it from the beginning.

Musically, the jazz lounge indie sound is passable, even interesting in places.  Take “Four out of Five”, it’s so stylistic that the ghost of Bowie is wondering how to add it to his next album.  “American Sport” is an example of a song which suits this style.  It oozes sophistication, finesse and style to the nth degree.

But this is not all fun and games, sometimes it feels very heavy fisted.  “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” sounds hammy as hell, the title track sounds as if singer Alex Turner is going to fall over his words at any given moment, “She Looks Like Fun” sounds forced and unnatural in places.  These might be growing pains if this is the permanent direction for the band, but they are being played on a grand stage, so they come under the microscope with greater clarity.  At times, Mr Turner seems to want to add a thousand words when a few words would have sufficed.  This leads to a feeling of overkill in places, as if the idea has been over thought and it feels a little jaded because of this.

Musically as well, I am prepared to admit the style of this album is not something I would reach for in the first instance, and this album has not changed that opinion.  I’ve not been so big on songs that sound like they could only be used in a Lounge or a Femme Fatale film, one that is in grainy black & white.  I don’t hate it, to be honest, it’s the most interesting record that the Arctic Monkeys have ever released.  It’s so many people talking, trying to say they either hate it or they were always a lounge fan.  At the end of the day, the album has gained a reaction and that's the endgame really.  But I still must give props for the Arctic Monkeys having the balls to releasing this record.  That is one hell of a thing to do and I respect them more for it, let's see if they have the courage to follow their conviction on their next record.

6 out of ten – Now, I see where you were going, but it's not quite there.

Ghost - Prequelle

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve always had a soft spot for the Satanic branch of the Salvation Army (my cheeky name for Ghost).  Their first three albums are three of my favourite hard rock records, they are full of OTT drama, attitude and a fanatical devotion to him downstairs.  Now, whilst I’m not a Satanist myself, the music of Ghost has always been on the mark.  But we find Ghost at a crossroads so to speak (this review might be pun-heavy, I’m sorry).  After the release of Meilora (you can read our review here), the band fell apart as their identities were revealed due to a court case between Tobias Forge and his former unnamed ghouls.  The court battle has been dirty, to say the least, accusations of unfair dismissal and claims of hire hands being thrown both ways.  For an outsider, it’s been entertaining, if not a little sad to witness a band tearing itself apart.

However, Forge has found himself some new unnamed ghouls to back him under his new persona, Cardinal Copia.  So, everything changed, but it's also the same?  Well, that is the question here.  At the very heart of this album, if they admitted or not, is a band trying to find its identity again.  They are also trying to prove that this is essentially a solo project for Forge and he can make the music without original members Martin Persner, Simon Söderberg, Mauro Rubino, Martin Hjertstedt and Henrik Palm.  This is a release that will either cement them or sink them, so which is it going to be?

Musically, Ghost have moved on towards the 80’s hair metal phase of their existence and away from that 70’s progressive sound, they started with.  “See the Light” could have been for the most part on a Whitesnake album, “Miasma” is a song that I fully expect to hear on the next Top Gun movie, “Witch Image” is Bon Jovi at their 80’s best.  They’ve changed their style, but to be honest, this was hinted at on their Popestar EP which was released in 2016.  It’s not their biggest jump, it’s been long coming, but the transformation from their earlier form is now complete.

And yet, I still find myself liking some of it.  “Miasma” might be an 80’s classic in the making, but it’s also one of the finest instrumentals you’ll hear outside of an old ELP record or Rush collection.  “Faith” has one of the most OTT introductions since “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” from Meilora.  Ghost are still masters of the macabre drama, shouting the praises of their father below as loud as possible.

I think the main thing here is, and will always be, to decide if the album is any good.  The answer to this is no.  Here are the pro’s: Ghost have not lost the knack of writing a great tune, even after losing four-fifths of their line up.  So that is a positive straight away.  Also, they use familiar riffs to their other material, so you never feel like it’s been a wholesale change.  Here are the con’s: they are further away from the horror of old, now they are at the commercial end of their journey.  The more shine that has been added, the more mystic that has been stripped away.  A band which is so heavily based in the acts of Satan tends to thrive under the macabre, so the commercial sheen will lose it some of its original fan base.  I don’t think for a moment that they care, but that is for time to tell.

Overall, Prequelle is a disappointment and that is really the end of it.   Ghost are starting to sound tired, the OTT lyrics now sound clichéd now, the joke is over.  To be honest, their journey should have ended with their spectacular live album, Ceremony & Devotion which was released last year.  That was a fantastic document of the band at the height of its power, this is purgatory.  There is nothing here which really warrant more than one listen, which is something I would never have thought I would have said about Ghost.  It’s not the worst album I've heard, it’s just soulless and lacking spirit.

5 out of ten – Not for everyone, but played well.

Top song – Miasma

Asylums - Alien Human Emotions

The word "retro" can be a very subjective thing.  One person's brand new and shiny is another's yesterday.  For me, Asylums are a retro band, creating a sound that I first heard in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Listening closely to their sound, I hear bands like Ride, The Charlatans, Sonic Youth, early Soul Asylum and others in their sound.  I’m not saying that Asylums have been influenced by these bands, but they share a sound palate with them at the very least.   There is also a slice of Power Pop to their tone, one which I have only heard with Teenage Fanclub (especially on “Homeowners Guilt”).  Based on the above, I could easily be very lazy here.  I could make cliched assumptions about the band, but I won't do that.  I like to give each act or artist an equal chance, which they fully deserve.  Each new band is trying to make their own way into the world, creating a new noise for themselves.  So, even if they sound like the bands from my youth, I’ve got to put that pre-judgemental away and look at this as a new piece of art. 

Alien Human Emotions is the follow up to Killer Brain Waves. It's an ultra-heavy indie album, one which is kicking against the pricks of the chart bothers.  With this sound, they are probably one of the only ways to rebel in popular music these days, by sounding slightly heavy in your chosen field.  Songs like “When We Wake Up” and “Napalm Bubblegum” are kick ass anthems for the jaded, they are not satisfied with how things are turning out.  There is a punk attitude with indie sensibilities, a winning combination in my book.  They can also slow things down, such as on the politically motivated “Homeowners Guilt” or the potent “Millennials” which sounds heavy and beautiful in places.  Also, ending track “The Company You Keep” is a brilliant piece, ending the album on a calming note and showing an understand of track ordering beyond their years.

The more I've listened to Alien Human Emotions, the further under the surface I've tried to go.  The main thing I keep coming back to with this record is the style of Asylums.  For me, the greatest strength of Alien Human Emotions could possibly be their biggest weakness as well.  To be frank, I am hearing a lot of heavy hitters on this record, a lot of talent as well. The songs on Alien Human Emotions are songs that other artists would kill for.  These are songs which are easy on the ear, with a little fuzz around the edges.  That's great and really speaks to me.  Yet there is also nothing here that creates conflict or another other than established parameters.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it makes me think about the future of Asylums.  It makes me wonder if (and this is an if) they ever released an album of just slower number, or changed style slightly, would their audience be onboard?

However, that is just me looking for a negative and trying to be balanced with this review a little.  Overall though, Alien Human Emotions is a blast for me, it’s one of those albums which sounds like the angry youth trying to make their own new noise.  Yes, for me it sounds like I've heard it before, but that does not mean it's not new for them.  I like the fact it's fuzzy, I like the noise, I like their style.  If Asylums do make a third album, I will be reviewing it straight away with eager interest.  Alien Human Emotions is a colourful piece of Indie/Punk/Power Pop.  With this record, they should have people jump around like loons at their show, as well as make grumpy old farts like myself reminisce as well.

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

Top track – When We Wake Up

29 June 2018

ATTIWLTMOWOS Podcast - 28th June 2018

Hello and welcome to a (sort of) new era for ATTIWLTMOWOS!  Because I'm a one-man blog team now, it's hard to write every review I want to write, have a family/work/social life, as well as presenting Attention Please on NE1FM.  To be honest, some albums have passed me by!  But that is no longer the case!  In the spirit of trying something out, I'm now going to be releasing a fortnightly podcast, doing mini-reviews for albums that I might have missed!

The first podcast will feature reviews of the following albums:

Ty Segall & The Freedom Band - Freedom's Goblin
GoGo Penguin - A Humdrum Star
Field Music - Open Here
The Decemberists - I'll Be Your Girl
Judas Priest - Fire Power

You can listen to the podcast here on Mixcloud.

Thanks for checking it out and expect the next in a fortnight's time!

27 June 2018

Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Queen Tired

Ask and you shall receive!  I do try to get through my list of submissions every now and then, but being a one-man team makes it hard.  However, there is always time for new (and old) acts in my life.  Today, I will be looking at Elizabeth Colour Wheel.  They released their new EP, Queen Tired on 4th May 2018 and to be honest, that is as much as I can tell you about them.  There is no further information on their Facebook page or Bandcamp page about their past, which makes them an enigma.  I like that, sometimes it's good to have a band that doesn't give you everything.  In this digital age where we know the movements of lots of people, it's refreshing to know fuck all something.

Queen Tired is a three track affair, starting with the short(ish) and loud "Mika Says", proceeding on to the fantastic and loud "Unknown Tomb", then ending with the long and loud "Pomsky".  You may have noticed the word loud, this is the keyword for Queen Tired.  Because these cats deal in reverb in a way that will vibrate the fillings out of your teeth, it puts them in very exclusive territory. Very similar to acts such as Fret and Wahella in the North East of England, these American Amplifier Worshipers deal in sonic noise, attacks which can be felt through your feet at the right volume and with cause euphoria/deafness at the right sound level.  

Now, depending on how much you like your hearing being fucked with will give you a general idea about listening to this in the first instance.  Me, I love it, I think that "Unknown Tomb" is a brutal piece of noise that hits all the right notes.  I think "Pomsky" is a fantastic track that'll test the average listener and make people check if their speakers are working.  But I'm under no illusion that Queen Tired is a release that is not necessarily for the great unwashed, which is as it should be.  Some music is not for everyone, Elizabeth Colour Wheel is a prime example of that sort of act and long may they continue to be so.  Each song is on Queen Tired is a noise explosion waiting to happen, each is a piece of art that will enthral and repulse in equal measure. It's unmarkable, unfathomable and noisy as hell, but in the best possible way!

Crazy Cat Symbol - This cannot be marked, so here is a box of kittens

Top track - Unknown Tomb

You can follow the activities of Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Facebook here.

You can purchase Queen Tired and other releases from Elizabeth Colour Wheel on their Bandcamp Page here.

You can stream Queen Tired on Spotify here. 

You can stream Queen Tired on Deezer here. 

You can stream Queen Tired on Tidal here. 

24 June 2018

Frank Turner - Be More Kind

Frank Turner has been at this game for an awfully long time now.  It's been thirteen years since he went solo, in that time he's released six solo records, six compilation albums, one live album (via iTunes), seven EP's, seven split releases, and played (as of 23.06.18) 2,198 shows!  The man just keeps on going like a pro, constantly moving forward with an air of determination and style.  I was lucky enough to interview him for my radio show earlier in the year and he was such a gent, complimenting my t-shirt and discussing his new record, Be More Kind.  Released on 4th May, Be More Kind has been well received by fans (a word Mr Turner is not too keen on, but I've no idea what to change to), quite well received by the general press as well.  However, with this is the seventh studio record of his career, you wonder what he has to say.  With the world seems to be going to shit,  he has written thirteen songs for this record.  So, it seems that he's quite a lot to get off his chest.  But the big question is this - how does Be More Kind hold up?

Following on from the beautiful Positive Music for Negative People (our review cleverly linked here), Be More Kind faces a huge task.  Positive Music.... arrived at the right time, dealing with the perception of depression and showing how people felt whilst struggled with mental illness.  Upon its release, Positive Music..... was given a mixed response with critics hating it.  Now, it's a much-loved album which is considered one of his best releases.   Be More Kind looks at the current state of the planet, focusing on the political situation of the planet, as well as a few songs about love in a fucked-up situation.

For me, it deals with both circumstances with grace and humility.  A lot of people have complained that Mr Turner has been too ham-fisted when it comes to his political musings. You know what, bollocks, he’s on point here!  Songs such as "1933", "Make America Great Again", "Black Out" and "21st Century Survival Blues" are brilliant.  They speak to people who are ashamed at having to witness the world regress to an apathetic state, specifically one which resulted in two of the biggest wars that humanity as a collective has endured.  The horror of "Lifeboat" and the feeling of terror behind the music is a powerful statement, one which stays with you long after the gentle guitar has finished.  For me, these are one of the best set of songs that Frank Turner has released.

But there is one thing I would change about Be More Kind if it was my release.  This is the track order.  For me at least, it's a little off.  I think ending it with two slower numbers takes the wind out of its sails.  Energy and flow, for my money, are just as important as a message when ordering an album.   It also gives the impression that the album is top heavy, with all the passion and bravado at the front.  This doesn't sink the record, it just makes me wonder if it could have been improved with a slight change.  

However, overall Be More Kind is my type of album.  Full of passions, a little political and with its heart in the right place.  It's attempting to make sense of how humanity cannot learn from its past, how we're still looking for love and wondering why we seem to let horrors return.  It's a gentle and powerful record, one which will be in in a lot of people's album of the year lists.  But the title alone is a lesson which everyone should live by, why can't we just Be More Kind?

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

Top track - Make America Great Again

You can purchase Be More Kind from Amazon here.

You can visit the Frank Turner website here.

You can follow the activities of Frank Turner on Facebook here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Spotify here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Deezer here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Tidal here.

17 June 2018

Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man

Quick story before I start the review.  Before I started this writing up this review, I put up a post about my thoughts on Facebook.  Within two minutes, one of my friends replied with the age-old "I want to say it's Alright".  I'm going to assume that everyone is getting the Supergrass connection, if you didn't know that Gaz Coombes was the frontman of Supergrass, I'll assume you were not here when they were originally around.  The thing about the expected joke though, it sorts of sums up how some of the public feel towards Gaz Coombes and his new music. There is a general misconception that his musical career ended with their first album. 

World's Strongest Man is the third solo album that Mr Coombes has released since Supergrass ended after six studio albums together.  His last solo album, the fantastic Matador (our review cleverly linked here) was one of my end of year list for 2015, it was such a surprise to this blogger.  You could obviously tell it was the same writer, but there was a maturity to the man, a subtle difference that stopped me dead in my tracks.  This marked a change in my attitude to Gaz Coombes in my mind.  He moved from the frontman of Supergrass to Mr Gaz Coombes, the artist.

World's Strongest Man feels as if it was written in a different era when the world was a different place as if it's been in a sealed vault and released in accordance with a last will & testament.  This is a clever album, a minimalist record which combines the art of Talking Heads, the subtle Art Pop noise that takes a lifetime to master.  This is as far away from Supergrass as you can get from the same artist. 

Highlights for me on World's Strongest Man include the fierce "Vanishing Act", the bass-heavy "Walk the Walk" and the divine "Wounded Ego".  To be honest, I could list every song on this album, each of them is a quirky piece of art.  But I'll be honest when they are separated from the pack, they lose a little bit of the charm.  This is an album where the flow of the record is more important than the individual tracks, the collective is more important than the singular song.  This means this is an album to be listened to in its entirety and not an album brimming with singles.  I love this, but as well as being it's biggest strength, it's also its biggest weakness.  Due to the nature of the record, it might be hard for the great unwashed to embrace (shame on them).

This is also an album which you must invest time into, a record where an instant reaction is not going to be forthcoming.  Hence why I'm reviewing it so late after its original release.  My first reaction - Well, that's different once again.  However, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered little subtleties embedded into this album.  It's not an instant classic, it's a slow burner in the classic sense.  Songs like "The Oaks" take time to get under your skin, they cannot be rushed.  World's Strongest Man is a hidden gem in 2018, one that will take people by surprise.  I reckon that Gaz Coombes is onto a world beater here, but one that might not be for the masses.  If you're looking for something slightly off the beaten path of the mainstream, this could be the album for you.

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

Top track - Wounded Ego

You can purchase World's Strongest Man on Amazon here.

You can visit the Gaz Coombes website here.

You can follow the activities of Gaz Coombes on Facebook here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Spotify here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Deezer here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Tidal here.

16 June 2018

Ash - Islands

For people who are around my age, Ash will forever be that young band from the Northern end of the Emerald Isle with a Star Wars obsession.  It’s hard to think of them as grown men, but that is the situation that we find ourselves in.  Over the years, Ash have released some great records and a plethora of hit singles.  But for me, I was never truly bowled over by their album output.  As good as they were, they were never ground-breaking for me.  That was until Kabalamo in 2015 (you can read our review here), which was one of the best power pop albums in recent years.  For me, it was the perfect combination of all their styles and it will forever be that way.  Now we come to their latest release, Islands.  Released on Infectious Recordings, who released the first five albums by Ash.  The title and cover are also (once again) a nod towards Star Wars.  The cover is of one of the islands of Skellig Michael, an Island off the South West coast of Ireland, which was used as a location on Star Wars Episode VII & VII.  So, a Star Wars referenced album, back after a previously stunning release, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, upon the first listen, quite a lot.  After the unbridled joy of Kabalamo, Islands is an initial let down as they seem to scale back their sound.  “True Story” is a plodding opening track, a decent song that doesn’t leave a lasting impression.  “Annabel” which was released as the first single is a lot better, with a trademark solo and a driven delivery.  But they still sound as if they’re holding back.  Then comes “Buzzkill” and there is the smallest spark of that band I love.  It’s followed by the silly “Confessions in the Pool”, a song which I could not stand upon first listen and then it seemed to fall apart again.  I was just not getting into this album, it just felt like a step backwards to me and I was prepared to write it off.

But then I went back to some of their earlier works, mostly in a huff if I’m honest.  But as I listened to 1979 and Nu-Clear Sounds, I found myself making connections with Islands.  It was subtle, but I could hear things in that were being reflected on Islands.  Because of this, I decided to give it another shot to see if my gut reaction was wrong.  On reflection, I will admit my initial reaction was not 100% correct.  Ash still have that knack of writing a quality tune, such as the mournful “Don’t Need Your Love” or the slower burner “All That I Have Left” are great examples of this.  When they’re on top of their game on this record here, they still sound good.  Yet there is still a but………

And that's the issue of the album for me, the nitty gritty of my thoughts.  Islands is a slow album which feels like someone has had their heart broken, so the world must know.  Song titles such as “It’s A Trap”, “Don’t Need Your Love” and the aforementioned “All That I Have Left” don't so much hint at this, but lay it out straight.  Now, a top quality heartbreak album can be a phoenix to rise of the flame of love, Islands is not that majestic.  It plods in places, never really getting out of second or third gear.  This makes Islands an uneasy experience, one which tries to mix their brand of power pop and heartbreak, but untimely pleases nobody.  Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m too jaded, maybe I was spoilt by Kabalamo.  But at the end of the day, Islands is an average album from a band that is capable of greatness. Having "Buzzkill" as my favourite song of the album seems apt.

6 out of ten – Now, I see where you’re going with this, but it’s not quite there.

Top track - Buzzkill

You can purchase Islands on Amazon here.

You can visit the Ash website here.

You can follow the activities of Ash on Facebook here.

You can stream Islands on Spotify here.

You can stream Islands on Deezer here. 

You can stream Islands on Tidal here. 

The Winter Hill Transmission - The Winter Hill Transmission

They say that good things come to those who wait.  If you’ve been a fan of The Winter Hill Transmission, then you might question how long you have to wait.  The Winter Hill Transmission has been together for at least eight years, maybe longer.  I can only guess when they started, mainly because their FB page and website does not supply a date when they formed.  However, the first post on Facebook is from 2010 and I know that I saw them supporting Thomas Truax at the Tyneside Cinema that year as well.  They’ve regularly played shows in the UK, performing their brilliant music and yet there has never been an album.  Until now that is, as they finally released their self-titled debut record! 

The artwork was created by Jim Edwards, it’s a painting called ‘Yellow Fields and Pylons’.  If you want to check out some of his other artwork, there will be a link below the review.  Now, let’s get back to the album.  When you think about the length of time between forming and releasing their debut self-titled record, it’s been quite a long time.  They even give a nod towards this, acknowledging this on the thank you section on their website.  They state the existence of this record is proof that they do something on Wednesday nights.  If I’m being honest, no matter how long the wait.  It's such a relief to actually see them release something.  They have been classed as one of the best-kept secrets of the North East music scene for many years.  But because they’ve taken so long to release their debut, have they waited too long?  Well, thankfully not too long.

The Winter Hill Transmission is an album that contains ten indie folk tales, with the lyrics written by Rhythm Guitarist and Vocalist Ben Holland.  The rest of the band is formed with Pete Moffat on Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals, Neil Reynolds on Bass and Andy Lofthouse on Keyboards/Backing Vocals.  The album featured drummer Tom Bacon, but he’s not mentioned on the TWHT Facebook page, so I’ve no idea if he’s still in the band.  However, what I can comment on is the music.  Over the ten songs, TWHT create a series of little worlds for you to explore.  Each one is as gentle as a breeze, as strong as an Ox and completely memorable.  Opening with the beautiful “Jupiter”, TWHT eases you in gently to their world.  The video for this song is about an amateur spaceman trying to leave the planet.  It’s a beautiful video and a brilliant song, one which gently introduces the band.  “Satellites” for me is one of their best song, a little stomping number that works its way under your skin and stays in your mind for hours after it’s finished.  “How Could We Ever Know” is another song which lingers long after it’s completed but in a good way.  It captures the uncertainty of love and trying to find something is fleeting is beautiful, it melts the heart and it also sounds fantastic.  By the time you reach "Matador", you know you've been through a beautiful journey that stays with you long after it's finished.

Much like the sound of the North West being eternally linked to Joy Division, the sound of The Winter Hill Transmission could not have originated anywhere else in the world apart from the North East of England.  It’s hard to explain, but when you listen to this album, you’ll hear the sound of the area where I grew up.  So, for me, this is a special album.  It’s a gentle record, one that contains hidden depths to immerse yourself in.  Are there any issues?  Nope, this is a mighty fine album.  I wish it was a tad longer, but after so many years of waiting, I think that this is a natural reaction.  The Winter Hill Transmission is a brilliant (and long overdue) debut album, one that will fit perfectly in the collection of any music fan.  The sooner you get yourself a copy, the happier your life will be.  However, given their track record, I’ll be expecting a follow up sometime in the next decade……...

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

Top track - How Could We Ever Know

 You can purchase The Winter Hill Transmission at The Winter Hill Transmission Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase The Winter Hill Transmission on Amazon here. 

You can follow the activities of The Winter Hill Transmission on Facebook here.

You can stream The Winter Hill Transmission on Spotify here.

You can stream The Winter Hill Transmission on Deezer here.

You can stream The Winter Hill Transmission on Tidal here.

You can find out more about Jim Edwards on his website here. 

15 June 2018

Fatoumata Diawara - Fenfo (Something To Say)

Fatoumata Diawara is a Malian singer, who is currently based in France.  She has appeared in various films and on stage, as well as pursuing a music career.  Her appearances on various soundtracks and collaborations with the likes of Disclosure have given her lots of attention.  Fenfo (Something to Say) is her third album which was released on Shanachie Records.  Now, after this, I'll be honest that Fatoumata Diawara is not an artist I'm overly familiar with, also this is not a genre I have an extensive knowledge about.  But I'm more than willing to give any genre or artist a listen.  The cover is a vibrant image, with Ms Diawara on a beach, which contrasts with the red of her dress and the material in the wind.  It's a striking image to grab the casual listener's attention, which worlds really well.  But, what about the music, how has this turned out?

Fenfo (Something to Say)
is a beautifully crafted album, with passionate performances from the musicians involved.  From the energetic "Kokoro" to the beautiful "Mama", Ms Diawara sings with a passion and restraint that some artists could learn from.  Her vocals never sound stretched or feel as if she is screeching.  In other words, she has a natural and fluid voice that does not sound as if she is doing harm to her vocal chords.  This gives the music a chill-out vibe, a relaxing atmosphere that acts as another musician on this record.  There are some beautiful moments such as "Takamba", a song that could make any pensive soul relax and find solace. 

There's a fascinating blending of style on this record. You have Ms Diawara's native Malian's influences being mixed in with a Mediterranian feeling.  This combination of sounds is best represented on "Nterini", which has a Euro-Cinema quality, it's a beautiful song which stays with you long after it's finished.  Now, here is the rub for me.  As I have previously stated, this is a genre which I am not overly familiar with.  However, it's also one which I like to invest in every once in a while.  Fatoumata Diawara is now an artist I would actively look for, as this album is probably going to be my chill out hit of the year.  The music might not be my usual style, but I appreciate and respect the craftsmanship that has been put into this album and it's deserves high praise.  Fenfo (Something to Say) might have been an album that I missed, but I'm glad it was brought to my attention.  If you're wanting to try something a little different, you sound try this.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Nterini

You can purchase Fenfo (Something to Say) on Amazon here.

You can visit the Fatoumata Diawara website here.

You can follow the activities of Fatoumata Diawara on Facebook here.

You can stream Fenfo (Something to Say) on Spotify here.

You can stream Fenfo (Something to Say) on Deezer here.

You can stream Fenfo (Something to Say) on Tidal here.

8 June 2018

Old Man Wizard - Blame It All On Sorcery

Sometimes, things come into your life by accident.  When you're doing a blog in the style of your humble writer (poorly), you sometimes end up with PR companies blindly sending you invites.  To be honest, some of the things that come through the inbox are not my thing.  Sometimes I get a nice surprise and sometimes, I get a curve ball.  One such speculative email I received over the last few months was from San Deigo Rockers (with a capital R, very important), Old Man Wizard.  Now, I've heard of these guys before, played them on my radio show and I've always enjoyed the style and passion of the band.  When I last played them on my show (Attention Please on NE1FM), it was after Childish Gambino.  This might not seem like an obvious pairing, but it's one that makes sense in my mind. 

Old Man Wizard formed in 2011 and their second album Blame It All On Sorcery was released on 11th May 2018.  This is their second release, following up to their 2013 release, Unfavorable.  I would like to talk about the cover of Blame It All On Sorcery before I begin looking at the music.  This is a very simplistic and haunting image, the burning of an unfortunate soul on a pyre, a mass of hooded figures gathered to watch their demise and the skies turning grey.  It might not be as complex as an Iron Maiden cover, but it's still a striking and thought-provoking image. Especially when you think of the political witch hunts of the modern era, but it could just be that the band liked the image.  Anyway, enough about that, how does the album sound?

The first word that comes to mind is vintage, closely followed by retro.  This is an old school heavy rock album, with a new take on that old school sound.  Songs like "Cosmo", the galloping "The Blind Prince" and the frantic "Innocent Hands" are all throwbacks to a different era.  But they are not exact copies of existing songs, they are freshly formed ideas that sound fantastic.  They have taken a look at sounds which inspire them, given it a twist and released it upon the world!  They also bring out the acoustic guitars when required, such as on "Somehow", but it's not a ballad to melt the heart.  The music just requires that sound, it might not work as well with an electric sound.  I like that, it shows that the band have given thought to their craft and they've not just kept their musical pallet to one style.

Over the course of the ten tracks that make up Blame It All On Sorcery, Old Man Wizard keep things basic.   Nothing is over complicated or OTT, even when the songs have a fantasy edge to them.  This works for me, rock music is not something that should always be a complex beast, sometimes it's best to leave it basic, natural and untainted by modern tech.  For example, the fuzzy sound to the production of the final track "The Long-Nosed-Wiseman" is spot on.  It adds a sinister feeling to the song, it would have sounded shite with an 80's polish.  There is also a spaghetti western atmosphere to some of the tracks, but that is just something that automatically comes to mind when you band photo looks like this:

I love it when albums arrive in my inbox such as this.  It's been a long time since a classic rock album has caught me by surprise.  Not a huge surprise, they said they were a Rock band, the cover scream Rock band - rock 101.  However, Blame It All On Sorcery is a Rock album that will please both old school and modern rock fans in equal measure.  Old Man Wizard have not gone out to re-write the rulebook, they are out to make some memorable music and they have certainly achieved that.  If you're at all interest in Rock music, get this record!

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

Top track - Innocent Hands

You can purchase Blame It All On Sorcery on the Old Man Wizard Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Blame It All On Sorcery on Amazon here.

You can follow the activities of Old Man Wizard on Facebook here. 

 You can stream Blame It All On Sorcery on Spotify here.

You can stream Blame It All On Sorcery on Deezer here.

You can stream Blame It All On Sorcery on Tidal here.

3 June 2018

Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer

Father John Misty - Man, Myth, Enigma, a subject of ridicule and praise in equal measure.  Since the release of his last album, the brilliant Pure Comedy, I've been trying to figure out the man. The more I read about the former Fleet Fox, the less I seem to know.  The only thing that seems to make sense when you're talking about Father John Misty, is that fact & fiction are fluid.  The former Josh Tillman/Fleet Fox drummer is a man who courts controversies as a poet follows a muse for inspiration.  With his new album, it seems as if he's managed to piss off the Gods themselves.  God's Favorite Customer (American spelling, as he is from across the pond) AKA Mr Tillman's Wild Ride was released on 1st June 2018.  It's received a mixture of praise and the gnashing of teeth as well.  It was also accidentally leaked on April 18th by iTunes, leading him to release to this meme......

This shows that at the very least, he has a sense of humour (I have a feeling he was probably biblically pissed off at the same time, but still with a sense of perspective).  So, how has God's Favorite Customer turned out?

God's Favorite Customer is an album that has a timeless and vintage feeling.  Not to blow smoke up FJM's ass, but this album could have been released in any year since the late sixties to the present day.  And you know what, it would have fitted into that year perfectly.  Musically, it's steeped in old-school musicianship.  The craftsmanship behind the music and lyrics is on par with Elton John's 70's output, the music is dripping with sarcasm and self-deprecation humour.  The paranoia of "Mr Tilman" for example, this is great storytelling about experiences in a hotel whilst the party is running wild.  It's a satirical number, one that some people thought went too far, but it's just a brilliant song.  "The Palace" is another number that has an instant impact, but this one is so gentle.  Musically, the piano is played mournfully.  Lyrically though, well that is another story.  This song once again documents his time in a hotel, with hints towards paranoia and marital disputes.  Whilst the full backstory could be fiction, you cannot deny the talent of Father John Misty.

Each of these numbers on God's Favorite Customer is a gem, each of them would be a crown jewel in other albums.  Take "The Songwriter" for instance, a song that places Mr Tillman as the muse and his wife as the songwriter.  It shows that everything in a song should not always be taken at face value. FJM is letting people know that behind his works, as he shows that the grain of truth might be incredibly small.  However, my favourite (UK spelling, sorry FJM) song is "Just Dumb Enough to Try".  This song is an open admission of a lack of understanding, especially when it comes to love.  He might come across as a ladies man, a man with great social prowess, but he knows when he's also out of his depth.  The music matches those words like a heart beating in your chest, the vulnerability is interesting to see from a man who's known to be so confident.  Thus making it my favourite song of the album.

I think that I'm a little in love with God's Favorite Customer, mainly because it has a sense of irony that is missing in a lot of music.  Is it a bit too knowing?  Well, that depends on how much you like being in on the joke.  For me, I think it's a great follow up to Pure Comedy, which is still going up my all-time list almost weekly.  One day, people might want something different from FJM, maybe one day this will turn out to be his best record.  However, I think that God's Favorite Customer is going to be an album that will continue to divide people's opinion of Father John Misty.  And long may it continue...... I love the sarcasm that Father John Misty brings to the table, just as well his songs are brilliant as well.

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

Top track - Just Dumb Enough to Try

You can purchase God's Favorite Customer on Amazon here.

You can visit the Father John Misty website here.

You can follow the activities of Father John Misty on Facebook here.

You can stream God's Favorite Customer on Spotify here.

You can stream God's Favorite Customer on Deezer here.

You can stream God's Favorite Customer on Tidal here.

Turnstile - Time & Space

Turnstile is an American Hardcore Punk band, Time & Space is their second studio album which was released through Roadrunner Records in February 2018. They hail from Baltimore, Maryland in the USA.  Formed in 2010, they have also released three EP's, toured an awful lot and been causing mayhem everywhere they've gone.  To be honest, I've not got much more knowledge outside of that, because this is the first time that Turnstile have crossed my path. I've been meaning to complete this review for a long time, but I'll not dwell on that.  What I'll do it get on with my review of this record.

Time & Space is a frantic record, one that brings Hardcore music up to date.  You can hear Bad Brains, you can feel a groove being torn in every mosh-pit they'll be creating.  It's also an incredibly short album, thirteen songs which are all done in just over twenty-five minutes.  Twenty-five short minutes which are gone in the blink of an eye.  When some records have felt too long this year, Time & Space is an album that is bucking that trend.

As with all Hardcore Punk, you're either going to love it or hate it.  There will not be a casual Turnstile fan, there will not be a person who played Time & Space to relax.  So, is it any good?  Well, personally I think it's one of the most exciting Hardcore Punk albums I've heard in years.  I love the brutality of the music, the aggressive tone of their sound and the uncompromising attitude of Time & Space.  Much like the album, this review is short & sweet.  If you're a fan of Hardcore, get this album!

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

Top track - Generator

You can purchase Time & Space on Amazon here.

You can visit the Turnstile website here.

You can follow the activities of Turnstile on Facebook here.

You can stream Time & Space on Spotify here.

You can stream Time & Space on Deezer here.

You can stream Time & Space on Tidal here.

Eels - The Deconstruction

Over the years, the Eels have released some of the darkest music to ever grace a record player.  Outside of possibly Nick Cave, E is a man who can make sunshine disappear whilst his music plays.  Not that he is trying to make the world a miserable experience, but his tones are dark at the best of times.   Last year, I read his autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know.  It's a short book, but one that was full of an intensity, warmth, sorrow and beauty.  It went some way to explain a lot of background to Mark Oliver Everett - the artist known as E - to show how he was moulded into the person he had become. 

The Deconstruction is the first album from the Eels in four years.  Since the release of The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, E has experienced marriage, divorce, as well as the birth of his child.  All the while, he recharged his emotional batteries, as well as contemplating possible retirement.  It's obviously something that he needed to do.  It is also a bold and brave statement to the world, to have the courage to step aside from his creation.  That must have been so liberating, to be able to step outside of the project you've nurtured in public.  However, this didn't mean that E stopped being an artist.  He was still writing and creating, but it was just for pleasure and without the aim to release an album.  Recorded in various studios around the USA, The Deconstruction focuses on compassion, kindness and love.  It's a step away from some of the darkest of their soul, but is it a step away from their sound?

The delightful answer is resounding no, they still sound as dark as ever.  To be honest, I love the fact that whilst the lyrics are positive, the music is still dark and beautiful.  This is an album designed to comfort you in the dark moments of the night.  There is some much love on The Deconstruction, so much beauty and it hurts to hear the vulnerability of the artist.  "In Our Cathedral" is a prime example of how naked this album sound.  The admission of frailty, of loss and of pain, displayed for all to see.  However, at the very core of the song is determination, mixed with a tiny glimmer of hope. 

Another example of the beauty of this record can be found on the short, but poignant lullaby "Archie Goodnight".   A song that E wrote for his son to help him reach the land of Nod.  It's a wonderfully personal moment, one that I was not expecting.  The title track is another song that deals with something deeply personal.  On "The Deconstruction", Eels look at the burnout of their lead singer. You're viewing the collapse of E the artist, an act which leave Mark the man remaining.  By making the attempt to let go of the artist persona, E is attempting something that some people wouldn't be able to comprehend.  To reach the point where you have to excuse yourself from your successes, where you must gain personal freedom, it's a beautiful song.  "The Deconstruction" is an inspiration to this blogger.

Musically, the Eels are in minimalist mode.  Pick any song you wish - "The Epiphany", "Coming Back", "The Unanswerable", the amazing "Rusty Pipes" - musically minimal, emotionally charged and full of depths that'll make weaker artists curl up into a ball of pain.  Because of this, The Deconstruction is an album that will easily be dismissed as a dark and depressive experience.  But each time I've listened to this record, my heart is uplifted.  Maybe it's because I'm listening to the words and not just the music.

The only issue I have with this record is that it feels a little too long, it could have left a few numbers off and it would have been a leaner record.  However, which ones would you want to leave off?  Also, the sense of length is mainly due to the style of music, solemn-sounding songs do tend to make time stand still.  Anyway, that is me just looking for issues, just to try to stop this review sounding like a fan letter.  Overall, The Deconstruction is an uplifting, yet heavy experience.  It's an album that defies the normal expectations of an Eels record and shows that there is more to E than meets the eye. This is quite possibly the album which eclipses Beautiful Freak for me, which is a massive compliment from yours truly.

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

Top track - Rusty Pipes

You can purchase The Deconstruction on Amazon here.

You can visit the Eels website here.

You can follow the activities of the Eels on Facebook here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Spotify here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Deezer here.

You can stream The Deconstruction on Tidal here.

Past sermons

Greatest hits