27 April 2018

Laura Veirs - The Lookout

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

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

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

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

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

Top track – The Lookout

You can purchase The Lookout on Amazon here.

You can visit the Laura Veirs website here.

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

You can stream The Lookout on Spotify here.

You can stream The Lookout on Deezer here.

You can stream The Lookout on Tidal here.

21 April 2018

Andrew W.K - You're Not Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top track - The Party Never Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 April 2018

Shame - Songs of Praise

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

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

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

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

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

Top track – Concrete

You can purchase Songs of Praise on Amazon here.

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

You can visit the Shame website here.

You can follow the activities of Shame on Facebook here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Spotify here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Deezer here.

You can stream Songs of Praise on Tidal here.

19 April 2018

Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens

Hot Snakes first came to my attention via my love of Rocket From The Crypt, but soon I feel for their spiky charms which are intoxicating if I'm honest.  Anything that John Reis is doing, I tend to check out.  Formed in 1999 and originally lasting till 2005, Hot Snakes features the talents of Rick Froberg, John Reis Gar Wood, Jason Kourkounis & Mario Rubalcaba.  They are a Post-Hardcore act with members having already played in Drive Like Jehu, Pitchfork, The Night Marchers, Obits and many more.  So, even before you hear a note from this band, they've already got heritage and a CV which would make most other artists seem lazy.  Released in the early part of 2018, Jericho Sirens was released via Sub Pop, it is also their first album since 2004's Audit in Progress.  It has been a long time coming, especially since they got back together in 2011.  The fans have been hungry for this record, but how has it turned out?

Jericho Sirens can best be described as high-octave, fast tempo, aggressive surfer, hardcore punk-rock-arama fun!  There is no let up over the thirty-one minutes that comprise the duration of Jericho Snakes, it’s a wham-bam-thank-you-mam type of record. You’re not going to search for this album when looking for ballads, you’re only going to look for this album when you want to stomp around and pogo.  From the infectious “I Need A Doctor”, the smash/grab heartbeat of “Have Another?” to the brooding ending of “Death of a Sportsman”, Hot Snakes have proven beyond any doubt that when they’re on fire, nothing can touch them.

Are there any issues?  Well, if your looking for variation, then you might want to look elsewhere.  This is a straightforward album which does not deviate from that pre-ordained path, with that path being the pursuit of fast & furious Hardcore/Rock & Roll.  Hot Snakes play to their collective strengths, they don’t show any of their weaknesses and they keep everything simple.  So, it all depends on how you view the style of music they are releasing.  Jericho Sirens is designed to make you move, if this is not your cup of tea, then they really won’t care.  That is the sign of a band who know exactly who they are and what they should be doing.  If you love surf-influenced Post-Hardcore Punk Rock, you would be a fool to ignore this album.

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

Top track - I Need A Doctor

You can purchase Jericho Sirens on Amazon here.

9 April 2018

The Breeders - All Nerve

Anything Kim Deal releases will always be followed by the phrase, "formerly of The Pixies".  This is something that she is never going to escape, but I do think that it does The Breeders a disservice.  I've always had a soft spot for The Breeders, even if their discography has been hit and miss at best.  Kim Deal has always had something interesting to say, usually quite loudly and with a lot of swearing.  All Nerve is the first album from The Breeders in nine-year, as well as being the first album by the classic Last Splash line-up in twenty-five years.  There was a buzz about this release before it was released on March 2nd, 2018.  But since it's been released, it's sort of fell off the radar a bit.  Not too sure if that is because of the usual pre-album hype that comes from any release, or if it's a poor record.  I'll admit that I'm a bit wary of All Nerve.  Any time a classic line-up gets back together, there is the possibility of a fall from grace.  But, there is also the chance of a gold return, so what will it be?

All Nerve is not Last Splash part 2, which is a very good thing.  The last thing that The Breeders needed was to try to focus on past glories.  If this album had have contained a song called "Cannonball 2", I think it would have smacked of desperation.  What The Breeders have done though is play to their strengths, hide their weaknesses and released a slow, brooding record.  Songs such as "Howl At The Summit", "Skinhead #2" are sludge-like, you have small pockets of energy in the forms of "Nervous Mary" and "Archangel Thunderbird" which will have their fans pogoing like it's the 90's.  My favourite song is "All Nerve", it has that classic Breeders tone, their stop-start chorus and verse and it has love at its core.  I would also give a shout out to "Meta-Goth", it sounds like a tribute to the sound of Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Smiths, an electric version of This Mortal Coil and a hint of The Pixies as well.

However, there are a few issues with this album.  The first six songs are clearly stronger than the later five, you can hear the drop quite loudly.  Also, the momentum of the record never really kicks out of second gear.  As good as these songs sound, the ordering just frustrates the listener so much, which knocks it down a mark or two.  However - and this is a big however - this is a nostalgia trip without actually playing the nostalgia card.  It's not aiming for this, but that is one of the by-products of All Nerve.  Anytime that I hear Kim Deal, I'm taken back to my youth as that voice helped define a great period of my life.  I like the fact that The Breeders are still releasing records, all bands should strive to do this, but this is only a decent album at best.  I still think that there is still more to come from The Breeders, this cannot be the full stop, can it?

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

Top track - All Nerve

You can purchase All Nerve on Amazon here.

You can visit The Breeders website here.

You can follow the activities of The Breeders on Facebook here.

You can stream All Nerve on Spotify here.

You can stream All Nerve on Deezer here.

You can stream All Nerve on Tidal here.

3 April 2018

The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

The Temperance Movement have slowly, but ever so surely, been making a little niche for themselves in the UK music scene.  Since starting with their self-titled debut, their cult-like status has grown to the point where they are starting to break out of the club circuit and hit the bigger venues in the UK.  This can partly be put down to the musical pedigree in the band, with members having previously worked with the likes of Feeder, The Waterboys, Jamiroquai and many more.  It can also be put down to the fact that their debut and the second album, White Bear, have been so warmly received by their fans.  I would love to say at this point that I’ve been a fan since the beginning, but that would be a lie.  They were a name that I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve let pass me by.

So, in true ATTIWLTMOWOS style, I’m starting with the difficult third album, A Deeper Cut.  Released in February 2018, A Deeper Cut made the top ten in the UK music charts, which is quite an achievement for a Rock band in this day and age (sadly).  So, how has this record turned out?  A Deeper Cut is, to be frank, one of the best Southern American Rock album you’ll ever hear, without originality from across the pond.  Every song on this record is a killer cut, I cannot single any out for being sub-par because there is nothing sub-par about this album.  Each track is as different as the next, you have the ballad/heartbreakers such as the title track, “Another Spiral” & “Children” which will make grown men weep openly.  You have the stompers in the form of “Caught In The Middle”, “Love & Devotion” and many others – it’s such a quality record.

From beginning to end, A Deeper Cut takes all the experiences that The Temperance Movement have encountered, built on it and released a monster!  I’ve never been so excited about a traditional Rock album in such a long time, it has that special factor which makes music my all-time passion.  A Deeper Cut is a contender for the album of the year, it’s that damn good.

10 out of ten – This is proof that there is a Deity

Top Track – Children

You can purchase A Deeper Cut on Amazon here.

You can visit The Temperance Movement website here.

You can follow the activities of The Temperance Movement on Facebook here.

You can stream A Deeper Cut on Spotify here.

You can stream A Deeper Cut on Deezer here.

You can stream A Deeper Cut on Tidal here.

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