31 March 2018

Joe Satriani - What Happens Next

Joe Satriani is a living legend. When it comes to guitar playing, genre-defining and creating a back catalogue of legendary rock music, his only peers are Messrs Vai and Zappa.  If you're reading this, I'm going to have to assume that you already know about all of his legendary activities through the years.  When you have already achieved the status of guitar god, each release you bring out is bound to be broken down into minute details, every note is explored in depth and focused on to the nth degree.  What Happens Next was released in January 2018, this is his sixteenth studio album and it features the talents of Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith behind him.  As far as three pieces go, that's a damn impression line up and make no mistakes about it.  With this line-up, coupled together with producer Mike Fraser, you have a huge amount of potential  So, legendary guitarist, gigantic rock line-up, Deity-like producer, what could go wrong?

Nothing much, if you look just on the surface of this record.  If I was to go into detail about every single song, like I always do, then this would be an incredible repetitive post.  So, I'll reduce the work down to a few paragraphs instead.  What Happens Next is the tightest Satriani album I've heard, Messrs Smith and Hughes are the perfect backing unit for this outfit.  Each song, whether it be a slow or fast or hard rocking number, is played to a clinical perfect that you would expect from the musicians involved.  I applaud that, I appreciate the sound and craftsmanship of the artists involved with this record.

The thing about What Happens Next though is that it doesn't feel like a surprise by the end of it.  I wasn't shocked that it's a good record, I wasn't taken aback at the pace or found a solo I wasn't expecting.  By its very nature, this is one of the safest albums that Joe Satriani has ever produced.  It's not boring (unless you hate instrumental rock, then it's not for you), but it's not a wild ride either.  If you're already converted to the cause, much like myself, you'll love this.  But it's not for outsiders, it's not for the kids who want things to have sparkles and synth meltdowns.  It's for people who want the guitar to sing, which they shall receive and a whole lot more.  This album delivers exactly what people expect, it sounds really good and personally I like it, but I'm not buzzing when it finishes.

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

Top track - Catbot

You can purchase What Happens Next on Amazon here.

You can visit the Joe Satriani website here.

You can follow the activities of Joe Satriani on Facebook here.

You can stream What Happens Next on Spotify here.

You can stream What Happens Next on Deezer here.

You can stream What Happens Next on Tidal here.

30 March 2018

VETO - 16 Colors

VETO is a Danish indie rock band from Aarhus in Denmark, they formed in 2004 and according to Wikipedia have released four albums before the release of 16 Colors (five if you look at allmusic.com).  I've not heard anything by VETO before, but the cover of the album caught my attention.  The featureless blue face, surrounded by a vibrant coloured border (this article might get confusing, with two different spellings of the word "colour/color"), it is sort of terrifying as there is nothing recognisable on the cover.  But that is part of the mystery, which also makes this album a perfect candidate for our Cover Roulette feature!  For new people, I pick an album to review based on the cover alone.  The strange image on the cover of 16 Colors intrigues me, there is so much mystery to this album from the outset.  So, let's find out how this album has turn out......

01 - 16 Colors

Launching 16 Colors with its title track, which is a cross between the sound of Neu!, the drive of Depeche Mode, the punk drumming of The Hives and it all comes together in one intense opening.  The vocals sound as if they have been lifted from a different era,  adding a depth to VETO that makes this opening breathtaking.

02 - Measures

"Measures" starts with a funky bassline, ethereal synth effects and a rather pleasant sound, but this all changes at the halfway point of the song.  The synth rises like a siren, the drums slow and it all becomes rather dramatic.  Singer Troels Abrahamsen sings as if his heart is in peril, the band play as if the room is falling apart and they are playing for their lives, it's a brilliant song that keeps on giving.

03 - A Pit

"A Pit" starts off slowly with an atmospheric guitar sound, little drumming and a focused drive that gives a psychedelic feeling to this album.  It has a hint of Depeche Mode to the song, with strings galore on "A Pit".  It has a cinematic quality to the music, one which is hard to shake long after the song has finished.

04 - Mount Doom

"Mount Doom" in comparison to "A Pit" is a restrained beast, a song that feels as if the message behind the lyrics is more important than the music.  There is a catchy feeling to this number, the way the rhythm grabs your attention is so subtle and I can't get it out of my head.  This song is the sleeper hit of 16 Colors, it grows with each spin and I reckon it'll be a killer moment in their live set.

05 - One-Eyed and Dying

"One-Eyed & Dying" is a bass heavy track, one that has a dangerous tone, a primal sound.  There is a swagger to the music, one which is not easy to put your finger on.  To be honest, at times it feels like it could fall apart at any given moment, but it keeps it together and comes out shining!  Add this to the good pile, it's another cracking song from VETO here!

06 - Excited

"Excited" is the first song on the album which slows everything down to a deliberate crawl, given every note space to breath and the effect is breathtaking.  "Excited" is a haunting number, one which uses subtly to drive its point home.  You have to give this one time, it's not as immediate as the other tracks, but it's worth the effort in the end.

07 - Oh Center

Sounding like the love child of Depeche Mode and Bloc Party, "Oh Center" is one of the crowning glories of 16 Colors.  VETO use the synth to maximum effect here, but it's the guitar which is given the chance to shine on "Oh Center".  It feels as if it's been let off its leash.  I love the tone, I love the lyrics, I love the mad feeling to the music, it's a brilliant song!

08 - I Am Here

"I Am Here" is a messy little number, it comes to life with a slow piece of feedback, then the bass picks up the pace, short followed by more feedback and noise.  It never seems to settle down, but it still sounds good in the context of the album.  Basically, it's the weakest track of 16 Colors, but let's look at it this way.  If the weakest track of 16 Colors is still a good song, how strong must the others be!!!!

09 - Square Shaped

"Square Shaped" takes the same route as "Excited", slowly everything down and keeping it simple.  "Square Shaped" is a bass and guitar based number, for the most part, with a gentle sound to the music.  It's a beautiful number and to be honest, I think it should have been swapped for the next song to end the album.

10 - The Take/The Pace

"The Take/The Pace" is a final bolt of thunder, the sound of the party being played to the very end with all their passion and power on display.  This song struts when others have taken a little longer, being delivered at a measured pace.  This is still one of my favourite numbers, one of the best songs on the record once again, but I still think they should have ended on "Square Shaped".

VETO for me are the natural successors to the sound that was pioneered by Depeche Mode on Songs of Faith & Devotion.  16 Colors is the perfect combination of Alternative Rock, Electronica and Dark Pop.  Whilst there are elements of other artists in their sound, VETO have a sound all of their own, one which is enthralling.  If there was any justice in this world, VETO would be on the ascent all over the world, they sound that damn good.  16 Colors is a dark record, but a beautifully constructed one as well.  Are there any drawbacks?  To be honest, the only one I can think is that they leave you wanting more.  Also, I think the track order could have been re-arranged, but that is just nit-picking. If you can, purchase it now!

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

Top track - 16 Colors

You can purchase 16 Colors on iTunes here.

You can visit the VETO website here (there is an online store where you can purchase 16 Colors.

You can follow the activities of VETO on Facebook here.

You can stream 16 Colors on Spotify here.

You can stream 16 Colors on Deezer here.

You can stream 16 Colors on Tidal here.

If This Is A Man - Centuries

If This Is A Man is the alternative mocker of one Jon White from Stoke-on-Trent, Centuries is his third album for this project and follows on from Splinters which was released in 2016.  The style of If This Is A Man is described as "Acoustic, Ambient, Slowcore, Folk, Melancholy".  So, we know what to expect from the music, if that description is anything to go by.  After this though, I've no further information, as there are no more details on the ITIAM Facebook or Bandcamp pages.  The only thing I can tell you is that ITIAM are persistent, but not in a bad way. So, a little later than ITIAM might have been desiring, here is my review of Centuries.

01 - Centuries

The title track opens Centuries with a slow and methodical strumming.   "Centuries" is all about setting out the stall for this album early on.  With looping noises in the background, the strumming is build up over the song. ITIAM sounds as if the heartache which inspired "Centuries" occurred just as he was about to press the record button.  "Centuries" is a good opener, but I've no illusion that this is for moments when your heart is wounded.

02 - Obsession

"Obsession" is a song about not having the ability to escape your own demons. No matter how hard you run, they're always there when you arrive at your destination.  "Obsession" is another song that has been created from fresh heartache, delivering another beautifully fractured moment.  The music is brilliant, the vocals are on point and it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end.

03 - Long Time Dead

"Long Time Dead" is a hard song, one of the darkest of Centuries.  The sound of isolation, those failed relationships and the end of all things is a heartbreaker.  The build centres around a simple acoustic riff, a gentle pattern that delivers beautiful sound.  But it's the words that make "Long Time Dead" so hard to listen, this song is really good, but so hard on the soul.

04 - All That I Know

"All That I Know" is a song about being lost, whilst other people are leaving for destinations and you're still stuck in the remains of a previous life.  This reminds me a bit of an acoustic version of "Wonderful Life" by 80's pop act Black, but with the joyful optimism drained out and the heartache added instead.  It might seem like I'm being down on this, but I'm not.  It's another song which I enjoy, but it's another heartbreaker.

05 - Unclear

"Unclear" is the darkest point of Centuries, the black soul at the centre of this record.  I'm not sure if this is a warning about drug addiction or a lesson on how to avoid an affair, either way, it takes no prisoners.  The minimalist music allows those words to impact you, to hit you like punches when you let them.  This song should really have a health warning...

06 - Meanwhile

"Meanwhile" is a sub-two minute instrumental track, acting as a pool of relief in this ocean of pain.  It achieves this very well, but I would have loved to have heard a longer version of this.

07 - Reveal

"Reveal" seems to be a song that is brimming with anger, as if the self-loathing has erupted and the singer cannot take any more.  This might be an acoustic number, but this is one of the most aggressive numbers I've heard this year.  This is another great song on this album, one which shows another side to ITIAM.

08 - All As One

"All As One" is a song that ponders the end of days, when the spirits rise and no lies can be hidden.  It's a short number, one that focuses mostly on looping sounds, creating a haunted number that sadly ends too soon.

09 - Gloria

Ending the album is "Gloria", which has a recital of "The Last Letter" by Ted Hughes.  If you've ever read the words of Ted Hughes, you will know that this is heartache incarnate.  You'll also see what an influence that his work has been on ITIAM, how much his work is embedded into the core of this act.  It's an interesting ending to this album, but it's not an easy listen.

For a slow-burning acoustic affair, Centuries is an album of focused vision, executed to the desires of its creator and hopefully, he'll be pleased with the results.  It's a vision of loneliness, heartache and self-loathing in place, making it an uncomfortable album in places.  If you're in the mood for an acoustic record, one which sounds like the soul has been wounded, then Centuries will be a great choice.  This is a record that I would only pick up if I was in that particular mood.  When you look into the music of Centuries, there is a similarity to the songs. Each song has a common thread, each one is similar to the others.  But they're not identical clones of each other, you can tell the parentage in the same way that you can tell who someone's child is. I'm not saying that this is a poor album, but it's an album that requires downtime to flourish.  For this reason, I love that this sort of record exists.  Because not ever record needs to be attention-grabber, sometimes you need a gentle sound at the end of the day.  There is a beauty to Centuries, a fragile sound which makes this album a perfect companion for the broken-hearted.  Approach with care if your wounded, it might break you.

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

Top track - Obsession

You can purchase Centuries on the If This Is A Man Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of If This Is A Man on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Centuries is not available on streaming sites.

22 March 2018

Soul Dissolution - Stardust

To be remembered by a band is something that I'm always surprised about/am very honoured about.  Mainly because I find it miraculous that people read anything that my dyslexic arse is writing, secondly because I still find it amazing that people read this.  But it's always an honour that is very humbling, especially when you've been following an artist/bands activities on Facebook like a fan/stalker/obsessed freak (delete as applicable).  One such band who I've done this with is Belgium based act, Soul Dissolution.  Back in July 2016, I reviewed their debut record Pale Distant Light (you can read my review here).  That album one of those records which I could listen to any time of day, even in I was not in the mood and it turned up on my player, it just hits the spot each time.  Since I've last encountered them, Soul Dissolution hasn't let the grass grow under their feet.  They have been working on their second full-length record, which is going to be released on March 25th, 2018.  They're also gearing up for making their live debut and have a live line up as a five piece!  As per tradition, their studio work is still down to the core duo of Jabawock (All music and additional vocals) and Acharan (Lead vocals) with drums being provided by Forge Stone.  The idea of seeing this band live excites me a lot, but what about Stardust, how has this turned out?

01 - Vision

This is your standard atmospheric introduction, low synth keys and guitars that start off quiet and build towards a natural introduction to the first song proper.  It completes this job admirably and it doesn't outstay its welcome.

02 - Circle of Torment

From the opening discord, “Circle of Torment” instantly grabs your attention as it heads down into a melodic metal path that was formerly owned by Agalloch.  This is not saying that Soul Dissolution are copying the former titans of shoegazing metal, but the similarities between the bands are huge.  As is the originality and size of “Circle of Torment”.  The sound is massive, the riffs are methodical and precise, the vocals sound like a wounded animal fighting for its life, the drums are fantastic – basically, this is all I would want from a melodic metal number and more, this is a wow moment.

03 - Stardust

“Stardust” pick up where “Circle of Torment” left off!  With a faster d-beat pace and frantic guitars, the title track of the album is an energetic ball of energy.  It doesn’t let up for one iota, you are being dragged along for the journey and I couldn’t be happier at this point.  It has all the massive sounds of “Circle….”, I could go on about the instruments, but see the last song review. The best part though, this comes when it drops down in pace towards the end, at this point business really picks up.  This is a song which can make the hairs on my neck stand on end, it’s another song which I adore.  This is turning out to be a great album so far, hopefully, I’ve not spoken too soon.

04 - Mountain Path

Much like “Vision”, “Mountain Path” is an atmospheric introduction.  It does exactly what it should and then it’s onto the next song.

05 - The Last Farewell

“The Last Farewell” starts off once again with an atmospheric introduction, then it is back onto the frantic, clawing riffs, deep and low bass, howling vocals and amazing drumming!  To discuss this in words seems inappropriate and it deserves much better than my mad ramblings.  Basically, this is the pinnacle of Stardust, the crowning glory of the album and it’ll be the highlight of their sets!

06 - Far Above the Boiling Sea of Life

Soul Dissolution shows no sign of taking it easy on “Far Above the Boiling Sea of Life”.  If anything, the fact they are approaching the end seems to make them more volatile and dangerous at the beginning of this finale.  Around the three-minute mark, it slows down slightly, but this is only a rest bite before they pick up the pace once more.  They keep up that manic pace till the bitter end, never giving up, never hitting the fade button and finishing Stardust on another high point.

Stardust is a stunning record, a beautiful piece of art that is as important to me as the last Mogwai album.  It breaks through Black Metal and Post Metal, creating one of the biggest statements so far in 2018.  You don't have to be a fan of either genre to appreciate how good this record sounds, it's that damn good.  If I had to describe it to someone, I would compare it to a fight between Agalloch, Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, with Exxasens acting as referee.  Basically, it’s the best of both Post and Black Metal in one album.  There are no problems with the length of the album, the intro tracks are great, all the songs are amazing!  What Soul Dissolution have done here, is releasing one of the best records of 2018 so far.  I cannot praise Stardust enough, it's just a powerful and wonderful statement of intent and purpose.  When this comes out on March 26th, I'll have already pre-ordered it.  If Soul Dissolution comes to the UK, I'll travel to see them.  Pre-order/purchase (depending on when you read this) now!  You’ll regret it if you don’t do it!

10 out of ten - This is proof there is a deity

Top track - The Last Farewell

You can pre-order Stardust here.

You can follow the activities of Soul Dissolution on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Stardust was not available on streaming sites.  If this changes in the future, I’ll update the links here.

21 March 2018

Erasure + Echo Collective - World Beyond

World Beyond is the second album that's been by Erasure released in the last twelve months, but this time it’s different to their usual electro-pop exuberance.  World Beyond is chamber-music versions of the tracks on World Be Gone, deconstructed and reformed into new songs with the Echo Collective.  It’s a current trend for bands to attempt this with their records, but it’s interesting to see Erasure trying this sort of project at this stage of their career.  It shows that they are still wanting to explore their own sound, which can only be seen as a good thing.  Unlike their live record On the Road to Nashville, this is not a greatest hits album.  This is a direct song for song cover of the original album (apart from tracks 1 & 8 swapping places), so it begs two questions to be honest.  Is this for anyone but Erasure fans and is it just for completist fans?

01 – Oh What A World

“Oh What A World” is only one of two songs that have changed order on this album, with “Love You to the Sky”.  The first thing that got my attention is the difference between each version of this song.  The change between this and the original is stark, the first version was an industrial influenced song, more Throbbing Gristle than anything Erasure has released in a while.  This version of “Oh What A World” is transformed into an avant-garde number, with delicate passages and low cello rumbling that will make the hairs on your neck stand on end.  I love the contrast between the two versions,

02 – Be Careful What You Wish For!

“Be Careful What You Wish For!” has undergone a massive transformation on this album, whilst still essentially sounding the same.  The music is better suited to the string quartet formation, it gives this pissed off ballad a stronger presence and elevates it massively in my opinion.  The more I have listened to this song, the further under its spell I have fallen.  “Be Careful What You Wish For!” is a perfect example of this album working, whilst also surpassing its World Be Gone replicant.

03 – World Be Gone

The title track of the original album has been changed into a mournful ballad, one which will be perfect for those dark days where the heartache is at its most acute.  The change to this format is so subtle, but it works so well in the format.  Another song that benefits from the change in format.

04 – A Bitter Parting

“A Bitter Parting” is a song I was not too sure about on World Be Gone, sadly this hasn’t changed with the version on World Beyond.  It’s not a bad song, but it’s not a good one either.  Both versions of the song seem to feel listless, lacking a tiny bit of direction and feeling a little forced.  So, time to skip to the next track.

05 – Still It’s Not Over

“Still It’s Not Over” is essentially a direct cover of its original, without that much variation from the source material.  Whilst there is nothing work with this version, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, which makes it a very slightly inferior version.  But it’s still an interesting take on their own material, you’ve got to give Erasure credit for the attempt.

06 – Take Me Out of Myself

“Take Me Out of Myself” is another song which has little to no variation from the original, if anything there is a sense of emptiness to this one.  The original had the quirky electronica noise, whilst this version is just a little too clean, a little too clinical.  But once again, you have to give props to Erasure for attempting this.

07 – Sweet Summer Loving

“Sweet Summer Loving” is a song which benefits from the change here.  The original felt a little jaded in places musically, the chorus was a little tight and conflicting.  On here with the open strings and alternative percussion, it has a new lease of life and the change cannot be understated.

08 – Love You to The Sky

“Love You to The Sky” was the opening track of World Be Gone, but has been relegated to the 8th track of World Beyond.  For the most part, it’s an interesting version, the music is slowed down and it has a different energy and progression to the original.  The chorus here suffers from the lack of electronica, the repeated words merging well with the new music.  But then they change the ending, which has been reimagined as a long and drawn out piece of music, but they could not amend the lynchpin of the song?  It is almost there, but I still find “Love You to The Sky” to be a delightful number, one which I doth my cap to Erasure for trying something different.

09 – Lousy Sum of Nothing

Now, here is something similar, but different at the same time. “Lousy Sum of Nothing” was nice enough in its original form, but there’s better track on the World Be Gone.  But this version on World Beyond, it’s been transformed into a brooding piece that makes the heart stop.  It just a few subtle changes in vocals and the way the sound is performed, and it’s now my favourite track of this album.  This is the sort of number that this experiment is perfect for, it’s giving a song a new lease of life and the results are glorious.

10 – Just A Little Love

“Just A Little Love” ends World Beyond as it did with World Be Gone.  The original was a beautiful little dancefloor number, one that works incredibly well in the live environment.  This version (if I’m honest) is held back by the nature of World Beyond, it’s a sombre number in comparison to its joyful brother.  But it still manages to make me smile, just for its message alone which is a positive way to end this album.

World Beyond is an album needs to be viewed both separately from its original work and as a natural extension at the same time.  It’s a little weird to think of this record in that way but let me explain.  On its own, the results are mixed, to say the least.  It sometimes heads down the wrong path, going down cul-de-sacs of strange noise and it’s an exercise in “right idea, wrong time”.  This has been created for its own purpose and nothing more, it could have been used for some of their earlier deeper cuts. However, when they get it right on this album, it sounds as if this was the album that was meant to be released last year.  Inevitable, this will be looked at as a companion piece to World Be Gone, and this is where it flourishes into something beautiful.  Erasure with the Echo Collective have reinterpreted their own works of art and created two distinct versions of each song which for the most part, co-existing within each other and fully independent of their twin as well.  This might be an album for the completists in some ways, but I would recommend this for all Erasure fans.  I’m also wondering if this will prime their audience for a change, to see the band step into another role as well as the band of your childhood.  But that’s a question for the future.  I think that this could bring them some new fans, but it is a record for the faithful for the most part.  Because of its dual role, I’ll be giving this album two marks.  One that looks at World Beyond and World Be Gone as one project, one as an album on its own. In summation, World Beyond is an interesting take on their latest album, which sheds new light on their work and is a bold move.  It’s great to see them taking risks in 2018, let’s see where they go from here.

World Beyond an album in its own right – 6 out of ten - Now, I see where you were going, but it's not quite there.

World Beyond a companion piece to a bigger project with World Be Gone – 8 out of ten
- Now, you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track – Lousy Sum of Nothing

You can purchase World Beyond on Amazon here.

You can visit the Erasure website here.

You can visit the Erasure Facebook page here.

You can stream World Beyond on Spotify here.

You can stream World Beyond on Deezer here.

You can stream World Beyond on Tidal here.

Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

Young Fathers need no introduction if you've ever read these pages before. Since first coming to our attention with their Mercury Music Prize-winning debut DEAD, they have been on a mission to bring their own brand of sound to the masses, but without handing over one iota of their principals along the way.  Cocoa Sugar was released on 17th March 2018, preceded by the song "In My View" and it's their first release for new label Ninja Tune.  To be honest, I've been hyped for this release for ages.  No matter what they do, they always bring something new to the table.  Will they be able to hit a hat-trick with Cocoa Sugar?

01 – See How

Young Fathers start Cocoa Sugar in a minimalist style, which is in keeping with the previous releases.  “See How” uses sparse instrumentation, always hitting with a powerful impact.  You can guarantee that each note, each beat, each vocal has been laboured over and this is a beautiful song.  There is a natural, organic build to "See How", which would raise any wound soul and spirit in such a beautiful way until it’s sudden ending.  The ending comes too soon for my tastes, but it doesn’t ruin the overall feeling of the song.

02 – Fee Fi

“Fee Fi” is a dirty little song, one that sounds as if it has been constructed, deconstructed and re-evaluated multiple times before this final version.  There are strange noises, vocals samples and loops that together with Young Fathers dropping subtle bombs all over it.  I love the strangeness of "Fee Fi", it reminds me a lot of Massive Attack in places, a perfect mixture of trip-hop and minimalism.

03 – In My View

I cannot praise “In My View” enough, ever since I first heard it I have had to hear it at least once a day.  This song about self-loathing, depression and servitude to an indifferent lover is an amazing song.  Musically, it’s one of the more complex songs on the album, it has that instant quality which makes it the stand out track of Cocoa Sugar.  I love everything about “In My View”, this is one of my favourite songs this year and I have no doubt that it’ll be in my end of year list.

04 – Turn

You might think that “Turn” would have a difficult job, following one of the best songs of 2018 so far.  In typical Young Father fashion, they ignore their previous work and focus on making a fantastic song.  It’s another minimal piece, one that keeps everything tight and focused.  “Turn” is just as important as “In My View”, maybe even more so for different reasons.  One thing that it’s not is a filler track, that is something you cannot level at Young Fathers with this track.

05 – Lord

“Lord” starts with the sound of a choir, with an uplifting passion behind the voices, against a sparse and harsh background.  The subtly behind those beautiful vocals, the harsh reality of the rapping and the gaps between the music is uplifting.  I love the minimalist nature of “Lord”, it’s another example of Young Fathers at their best, but keeping everything tight!

06 – Tremolo

“Tremolo” is all about wanting to escape reality, need to have the soul reduced to a painless state and to leave the world for a little while.  The further you get into this song, the less that is going on.  I love their “Less is more” approach, they do so much with the bare minimum of music.  This is a beautiful piece, one that gives so much, leaving you feeling like you’ve been beaten up for hours on end.

07 – Wow

“Wow” bring back some energy to the music, but it’s just a sparsely populated, but this time with the vocals taking a backseat.  There are samples, screams and a slow drawl of a man who is lost in the moment.  This is a song that will get people moving but will also be one that people will dissect for years to come.  It’s a song that brings out a different reaction each time it’s played, but all of them have been positive.

08 – Border Girl

“Border Girl” is a song which reminds me of the bluesman extraordinaire, Son of Dave with its beatbox/vocal looping beginning.  There is an organic growth behind this number, which serves the band very well.  But after seven tracks of top draw genius, “Border Girl” feels like a rest bite.  It’s not a bad number, but it’s the first not to capitalise on the previous number.

09 – Holy Ghost

“Holy Ghost” is a song about having something inside you, something which is almost religious that you feel like your cursed/blessed with the spirit of the Christian deity.  This song is a track which will go down well in a club or at one of their shows, but it’s not working for me in the format.  Again, much like “Border Girl”, it is not a step up from the first seven songs.  But it’s still a good song, just not an outstanding one.

10 – Wire

“Wire” has a nostalgic feeling for me, because it reminds me of songs from my youth.  It’s a minimalist rave song, steeped (whereby choice or coincidence) in the dance culture of the early 90's.  It’s also over in just under two minutes, which is a bit of a shame.  But I think they did the right thing, as it could have easily outstayed its welcome. Better to be memorable, then to fade before your eyes.

11 – Toy

“Toy” is an energetic number in terms of aggressive lyrics and attitude, but it keeps up the minimalist tone of Cocoa Sugar at the same time.  There is no fat on this song, it’s a trimmed beast of a song, with one of the catchiest rhythms of the whole record.  Such a great song.....

12 – Picking You

After all their fine work, “Picking You” is the comedown track, the chill-out number to guide you home after an exciting, but sparse album.  They keep everything tight here, ending Coca Sugar with an emotional track about never being able to reach a good place.  The final chants of “you’ll never find your way to heaven” will ring in your ears long after this track ends, but it’ll not excite you.  To be honest, it feels like it ends awkwardly, which is a shame as it was shaping up to be a killer ending track.

Young Fathers can do with very little instrumentation what some back with 15+ member struggle to do, they create masterpieces that skin their hooks into your heart, refusing to let go.  When they are on fire, Cocoa Sugar can send the heart soaring high above this septic world, with minimalist odes of joy and pain. Sure, there are a few missed beats, a few songs which end too suddenly, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a great record.  Much like the album, this review is sort of short, but I think that is for the best.  Cocoa Sugar is another fine record from the Scottish trio, plus, “In My View” is going to be one of the most important tracks of 2018, watch this space.

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

Top track – In My View

You can purchase Cocoa Sugar on Amazon here.

You can visit the Young Fathers website here.

You can follow the activities of Young Fathers on Facebook here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Spotify here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Deezer here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Tidal here.

9 March 2018

Push to Talk - Dark Circles

Push to Talk hail from Atlanta, Georgia and they seem to like playing hide and seek.  I have very little information on them, the only things I could find on their social media pages confirm that Push To Talk are Liam Jagrowski, Joey Stanca & Trevor Stanc.  Apart from being from Atlanta, they also like to make weird things in a cheap bare-bones basement studio.  And that is it!  As far as being out on the craggy edge of obscurity, truly excel at hiding information about themselves.  Now, I was sent this request back at the end of December/beginning of January and after my vertigo attack, this was lost in the mix and I would like to apologise for my tardiness.  However, as I am so late here, it's onto the review.

Dark Circles is the third release from Push to Talk in 2017, following on from The Basement and 21 Degrees.  Now, whilst trying to review this album, I've discovered that I'm having to revert to my previous style of reviewing.  Dissecting this album into small pieces is not going to work, Dark Circles is not that kind of album.  This is an album which doesn't flourish under cherry picking conditions, it's an album that needs to be consumed in one sitting.  Each of the sixteen tracks on offer can be viewed as either a good song, interlude and noise sample on its own merit; however, when you listen to all of them in one sitting, this album transcends, evolves into something else.  It requires a lot of attention, as it crosses between Avant-Garde, pop, noise and everything in between.

To listen to Dark Circles is not an easy task, but it's a worthwhile task.  I love tracks such as "Visualize", "No More", "Falling in Void" and "Rolling in Sunshine", each one brings a different aspect of Push to Talk to the forefront.   The little interludes make so much sense when everything is connected, it's Dark Circles strongest card.  I love that this band is doing something brave and creating something different, I reckon if Mic Good & Keith Chandler ever heard these guys, they might fall in love with them.  For people who love to walk their own path, I give you Dark Circles!

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

Top track - Visualize

You can purchase Dark Circles from the Push to Talk Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Dark Circles from Amazon here.

You can follow the activities of Push to Talk on Facebook here.

You can stream Dark Circles on Tidal here.

You can stream Dark Circles on Spotify here.

You can stream Dark Circles on Deezer here.

8 March 2018

Horseflies - Sea Control

Horseflies are an Alternative Punk band from Portsmouth, and according to their Facebook page (and I'm quoting here), they swinging between a punk rock dance party and a paranoia-filled late night horror soundtrack listening session.  That sounds like a lot of my youth if the truth is told, but enough about me.  Sea Control is the second album from Horseflies, following on from their debut, These Halls Are Now Haunted.  I would be telling fibs if I said I knew about them before I received their email, so I'll not be doing that.  What I will do instead, is start my review.

01 – Waxwound

Starting off Sea Control is “Waxwound”, and automatically I’m hearing sounds that are familiar to me from years past.  If Horseflies aren’t influenced by the works of Ian McKenzie from Fugazi/Minor Threat, I’ll eat my hat.  “Waxwound” is a Post-punk that is based on a simple rhythm that slowly builds, with sparse explosions of sound.  It seems like the band are awaiting an explosive kick-off, which comes briefly in places, but there is a feeling that there is more going on underneath the music here.

02 – Video Nasty

“Video Nasty” is another Post-punk number that deals with how the futuristic nightmare dystopias of the video nasties of years gone by have slowly became a modern reality.  I love the tone of this song, it’s dark and sinister with a hint of manic energy which is quite hostile at times.  I love this sort of song, it combines fear, drama and horror into one hyperball of venom.

03 – Modern Mind

“Modern Mind” adds a hint of early 90’s shoegazer to their Post-punk ethos, with some gentle female vocals being added to the mix.  The main vocals are still biting, so Horseflies keep their edge on that one, but they manage to mix the two-separate style without making it sound like a cluster fuck.  To me, that is something that deserves applauding, as I’ve heard it attempted before and it has not always been as good as “Modern Mind”.

04 – The Slow Choke

“The Slow Choke” is another song which leans more towards the Indie aspects of Horse Flies, with the first clear vocals of the album.  There is a contrast to this song, it swings between aggressive indie to unhinged lunacy and both are equally important.  It’s an old-school song that has been given a new coat of paint, but it’s also a grower that gets better with each repeated spin.

05 – Sea Control

“Sea Control” is a slow, instrumental track which has a reflective spirit.  The build to the release is done brilliantly, but once it’s there, it ends suddenly and there is no return to the previous theme of “Sea Control”.  Whilst it cuts off the track at its peak, the overall theme & quality of the music is impeccable.

06 – Soft Focus

“Sea Focus” is very much the acoustic twin to “Sea Control”, with an acoustic guitar being played gently as samples of sound are played in the background.  Whilst (much like “Sea Control”) it’s another short song that seems to be cut off before its theme have fully been explored, could it have been joined onto “Sea Control” to make one long piece?  Just my own thought there, but both seem to be compatible in my mind.

07 – Make It Look Like an Accident

“Make It Look Like an Accident” brings back the Post-punk sound to Sea Control, with this short & sinister track.  To be honest, whilst it sounds great, it ends just as it starts to get interesting.  It’s good, but it’s another song that could it have been given further room to breathe.

08 – Jill Kester

“Jill Kester” mixes the Post-punk sound once more with lighter tones of indie to create another aggressive number that sounds as if Horseflies are playing out of their collective skins.  There are some deep emotions on this one, all wrapped up in an old-school tune that mixes Post-punk sensibilities with shoegazing guitar sounds.

09 – Nailhouse

“Nailhouse” goes back to a straightforward Post-punk sound, with an intense feeling to the song structure and a large degree of apprehension to a certain degree.  It’s one of those numbers which has that tone which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, but all in a good way.  I love the way it sounds, it’s one of those numbers which keeps getting better with each spin.

10 – Statues

“Statues” begins with a piano being played quietly, sounding slightly distorted in places and as if it was recorded two rooms over.  There is also the sound of a radio/telephone call in the background, one which is just on the edge of hearing.  It’s nice enough, but over very quickly.

11 – Vampire Shift

“Vampire Shift” is a song which is mostly instrumental, until the end when the refrain of “I’m so lonely, on the vampire shift” comes drifting over the music.  Musically, it starts off with the quiet sound of the band, then the band take it up a gear and it starts to bounce around your head.  I can identify the feeling of loneliness that is spilling off this song, anyone who has worked that nightshift in their life will get this.  It’s another song which gets better with each repeated listen, one of the best on this record.

12 – The Sound of Two Eyes Opening

“The Sound of Two Eyes Opening” brings the curtain down on this album with an old-school feeling (once again), but this time its one that sounds like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin instead of Fugazi.  You can imagine people jumping around to this, it has that aggressive energy that gives it a spark that will ignite.  I love the way this song sounds, it’s definitely something I can say is my type of song and brings down the curtain on this album in style.

Sea Control is an album that has roots in the past, but those roots have been dragged bang up to date with an aggressive explosion of sound and social commentary.  There are a few songs which could be expanded, especially the songs which aren’t overly aggressive in tone.  Those sounds are primed for expansion, but this is just my opinion.  But that doesn’t mean that quality of the music is being questioned, I found the music of Sea Control to be on point.  They sound great with a mixture of aggressive indie and Post-punk sensibilities, something that has been missing from the music scene for a long time.  Sea Control is a good album with some strong numbers, Horsefiles are a band that you’ll want to be keeping an eye on going forward.

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

Top track – Vampire Shift

You can follow the activities of Horseflies on Facebook here.

You can stream Sea Control on Spotify here.

At the time of writing, Sea Control is not available to stream on Deezer or Tidal.

3 March 2018

The Winter Purge - Albums which have gone the distance

Ah, winter - the time I prune my CD collection!

It might seem old-school, quaint even that I have a CD collection in this hipster & digital era, but I have always had a backup.  There have been far too many times that I have lost a collection when a laptop has died on me, in the days before "clouds" and portal hard-drives.  So, I keep what I call my core collection.  This is the CD's from which I would start a collection from scratch if required, the very essence of what I consider to be the albums I couldn't live without.

Now, due to space constraints and not being able to use CD's as furniture, I regularly go through the collection and remove albums that I have either duplicated, grown out of, regretted purchasing or want to give to other's so they can find the joy of the music within.  I've only ever one used Music Magpie (not too sure if they have this in America, but basically, they take stuff off you for next to nothing - so you can feel like you got rid of some stuff for money), but mostly I hand out to friends or take to charity shops.  I tend to think of certain albums as ones you own for a bit, enjoy them and then they are set free.  During my recent review of my core collection of albums, I decided to write an article about some of the albums which are going to new homes.

I will be looking at ten of my former CDs, feel free to judge me at your leisure.

Radiohead - OK Computer

Does this count as a controversial choice?   To be honest, it really shouldn't be.  The main reason for OK Computer being here is OK COMPUTER OKNOTOK 1997-2017, the re-release of this album with lost cuts, demos and a remastered version of the main event means that the original is redundant.  To be honest, it's not even my favourite Radiohead album, I've always preferred The Bends.  But I cannot deny the impact that occurred upon its release, the ramifications are still being felt to this day.

The Golden Republic - The Golden Republic

I never got around to following up my interest in this band, or their next incarnation, The Republic Tigers.  I first heard The Golden Republic on Pandora, back when all you had to do was to give a US zip code (for the record, I used 90210 as it's the only zip code I knew at the time).  I found an American band who had a bit of a Beatles vibe, mixed with the Jayhawks, a bit of Cracker and a lot of quality American Indie.  It seems a shame to be parting with this CD, but I only really listen to one song, the delightful "Full of Yourself". I'm still going to check out The Republic Tigers at some point if only so I can follow-up this article.

Suede - Suede

At one point in the UK, you couldn't move for a photo of Suede, looking all moody and brooding.  Suede (AKA as The London Suede in the US) (in my mind) are one of the finest band to come out of UK 90's indie scene, their mixture of shamelessly ripping off David Bowie and T-Rex was so appealing,  with such art-house song such as "Animal Nitrate" (about under-age homosexual sex), "Metal Mickey" (inspired by the remake of the "Shoop-Shoop Song" by Cher and "The Downers" which is cited as one of the first songs to kick-start the Brit-Pop movement.  This is another case of upgrading, but I am still to purchase the deluxe version of Suede.  Therefore, its destined for a new home, and I have kept other albums by the cheeky lads.

Poison Idea - Feel the Darkness

I have no doubt I will purchase this bad lad again, I've already purchased it about eight times since it's 1990 release.  I like to share this one, it's a quintessential American Punk release that people need to hear.  Even twenty-seven years after it first erupted, it still sounds relevant today.  I know which of my friends is going to be acquainted with this one, may the Deity have mercy on his soul!

De La Soul - And the Anonymous Nobody

De La Soul is one of the best rap acts ever, anyone who says otherwise is wrong.  As much as I enjoyed And the Anonymous Nobody when I first heard it, I've not listened to this reviewing it last year on a late round-up blog.  Even then, it was a short paragraph on my other blog for a round-up piece.  Sure, it has some sick cuts, rhymes that will grab anyone's attention, but it's been gathering dust in my collection.  If I have not listened to it for that long, and I've not really had the itch to do it digitally either, then it should go to another home.  It's not that I've lost interest in the album, but I'm more likely to listen to something else than put it on again. So now I want to pass it forward, I just want someone else to find it in a charity shop, get that joy (and shock) of it being there and enjoying the ride.

Morrissey - Vauxhall & I

This is an album I'm letting go with a heavy heart.  For many years, Vauxhall & I was a mainstay in my collection, to be honest, I would have put it in my top ten albums ever at one point.  Songs like "Speedway" and "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" were numbers I used to welcome as old friends, have on in the background which doing stuff in the house, and rising a dry smile to my face.  But you may have noticed the words "used to".  Well, Morrissey has always had a big mouth (pun intended), he has always spoken his mind, but recently he has really upped his shit level game.  The man is not recognisable from the indie maverick of his early days, he might deny it, but he has left those ideals and roots way behind.  Now, every time I listen to his music, all I hear is his right-wing, Brexiter words, and the songs now sound hollow.  So yeah, this is the last time I'll be writing about this stain on humanity - thanks, Stephen, you stupid fucking muppet!

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue

On paper, this album should be a dream come true for me.  Ben Folds is one of the biggest musical influences in my life, I listen to at least one song by Mr Folds once a week, if I don't then it's a week wasted.  Nick Hornby has written some of my favourite novels, especially the book High Fidelity.  But a brilliant author is not necessarily going to be a great lyric writer, Lonely Avenue is proof positive of that.  The lyrics feel as if they were written before the event, as if Mr Folds is trying to cram them into his music, smashing the lyrical equivalent of a square peg in a round hole.  There are some nice moments such as the heart-breaking "Picture Window", but for the most part, it felt akin to when Elton John was given permission to write his own lyrics.  On the occasions when Bernie Taupin was out of the room having a sandwich, Elton (as great a musician as he is), could not write lyrics for shit.  I take no pleasure in saying that both men are better than this, but this album is a low point.

Early Man - Closing In




The opening line of the third song from the 2005 release has always been a high point of modern metal for me, with its huge Black Sabbath influence there for all to see.  The rest of the album follows a similar pattern, it's Sabbath/Amplifier worship created by two guys in a small room. At the time, I was obsessed with "Death Is the Answer to My Prayers" and nothing else, which still sounds amazing all these years later.  I love this album, so why am I letting it go? I'm not setting this one free because I've grown bored of it, I just passing it on so someone can get that same adrenaline rush when they hear that song.  They're gonna be in for a treat.

Panic! At the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Many years before they became the shit fest that produces the woeful Death of a Batchelor, Panic! At the Disco were actually a functioning band and not a solo career in disguise.  Songs such as "London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines", "Time to Dance" and "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", with their pretentiously long titles have aged to various degrees of decent, to God Damn awful.  I don't regret ever owning this, but also don't want it to be part of my collection anymore.  To be honest, I thought/hoped I had lost it a while back, but here it is - my eternal bad penny!  If I find it in my collection again, I'm gonna sign myself up for a mental evaluation.

Deftones - Adrenaline

Out of all the albums on this list, this one will most certainly get me in trouble because I am also about to admit I have ditched my whole Deftones collection.  The main reasons are the need for space (have you seen how many Zappa albums are out there!), and the fact that I've not listened to this or any Deftones album in such a long time.  I've always blown hot and cold with them at the best of times and whilst albums such as Adrenaline, White Pony and Koi No Yokan are great records, they will be welcome with open arms into someone else's collection.  But they were just gathering dust here, what is the point of having something that I will very rarely listen to?  I would rather hand them to someone who will appreciate them, someone who'll love them, rather than keeping them under a pile of growing dust whilst I listen to Marquee Moon by Television or Thin Black Duke by Oxbow.

Part of the joy of owning a record collection is knowing when it's time for certain albums to move to pastures new, knowing that your own tastes have changed and that it's time for someone else to have that record.  When you find out that you own two versions of the Ryan Adams album 1989 (don't judge me guys) or any other album if I’m honest, then it’s time to clean your collection up.  These albums and much more have ended up in charity shops around the North East of England, hopefully getting so funds to some great causes and giving some record collectors a little joy, the surprise that these albums have made into these shops and the satisfaction that these are now in their possession.

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