15 January 2019

Great Grief - Love, Lust & Greed

Great Grief are an Alternative/Hardcore band from Reykjavík, Iceland.  Formed in 2013, they have played all over the USA, Canada and their home country as well.  They've recently signed to No Sleep Records (home of Wonder Years, La Dispute and Touché Amor) with Love, Lust & Greed being the first fruit of this union.  I heard the lead single from this album "Ivory (Lie)" whilst searching for songs for my radio show, much like Valleyheart, I was immediately intrigued by them.  Love, Lust & Greed was released on 7th December 2018, so it missed the cut for last years best of, but can it make the list for 2019?

01 - Fluoxetine: Burden Me

Wham, bam, and it's straight out of the blocks for Great Grief with "Love, Lust & Greed".  There is an explosive nature to this song, one which seems like a distant cousin to some songs from Converge.  There is nothing sophisticated about this, like a boot to the head, you gonna notice "Fluoxetine: Burden Me".  It's a brutal opening, with a quiet lull in the middle, just to make you feel at ease....before hitting you once again.

02 - Feeling Fine

"Feeling Fine" is another short, sharp number, but with a less-aggressive tone to the guitars.  Much like Minor Threat and Fugazi, there is a power behind the music and shouting, but it's not just brutality for brutalities sake.  I like "Feeling Fine" a lot, it's a unique mix of noise and structure, which is a hard act to pull off.

03 - Troubled Canvas

"Troubled Canvas" sticks closely to the sound developed on "Feeling Fine", with a melodic tone to the guitars and a harsh delivery to the vocals.  You can feel the mosh pit forming already in your mind, this is not a song which you would want to stay still to.  The more I listen to it, to deeper the groove becomes in my head, all brought about by the merciless pounding of Great Grief.

04 - Escaping Reykjavik

Now that was not expected, but I guess it should have been.  The beginning of "Escaping Reykjavik" has what can only be described as a Darkthrone beginning.  It's Black Metal, but without being Black Metal.  It's just an intense and relentless attack, one which doesn't relent or cave in.  You can tell that they're part of Scandinavian Nations, just for that Northern Metal sound to the drums on this one.  What fucking song!

05 - Pathetic

At the beginning of this song, I was scared that Great Grief where going to drop the ball, with a slower song a little too early on this album.  Instead, they just kick me in the head with another aggressive number that starts slowly, but then explodes into life!  I'm digging the traditional Hardcore vibe to this band, one that they mix wonderfully with the modern "noise" sound that is slowly coming back into fashion (more on that later).  What is there not to like here?  It's a great song, one which sounds like it would rather fight you than find out who you are.

06 - Inhale the Smoke

"Inhale the Smoke" is the first song on the album to step away from the amplifier honour path, for the most part, it succeeds in creating a different aspect for Great Grief.  This song has a long piano intro and then a slow and aggressive ending.  And you have to admit that it fits perfectly on Love, Lust and Greed, it also offers a bit of variety to the album.  Whilst not my favourite, it's nice to see some variation to their sound.

07 - The Nihilist Digest

....and it's back on the good foot with "The Nihilist Digest".  More noise, more attack and further aggression from this Icelandic outfit.  This song is full of swearing, loud bass, crashing drums and loud guitars.  As an old school Metal/Punk/Hardcore/Alternative kid, I cannot help but smile whilst listening to this song.  It's a throwback, but with a modern take.  I love that a song such as "The Nihilist Digest" has been created and released in a time when bands with guitars are supposed to be on the decline.  I think Great Grief missed that memo or told the sender to fuck off.

08 - Ivory (Lie)

"Ivory (Lie)" was the first song I heard on this album whilst looking for songs for my radio show, it stuck out from the list I'd been sent by a country mile in the middle of December.  At that point, it was mostly Christmas songs, "Ivory (Lie)" is as far from a Christmas song as you can get without turning into Sunn 0))))).  After a brief drop of feedback, you launched into a sea of noise, swimming against riff after thunderous riff.  It might sound cliched, but the first song you hear is sometimes the best.  This is the case with "Ivory (Lie)" for me.  It captures Great Grief at their best, which is something glorious and noisy at the same time.

09 - God Sent

As subtle as a Presidental debate in America at the moment, "God Sent" is a close third (I'll explain later) in my ranking of songs on Love, Lust and Greed.  It just oozes confidence, this is not the sort of song you can do without that belief in your own sound.  There are no apologies here, no remorse, just a fuck you to the world and everyone who gets in their way.  "God Sent" does not deal in grey areas, there is only those who get it and those who don't.  I'm finding myself falling under their spell more and more with each spin of the record.

10 - Roots (Love, Lust and Greed)

And the reason "God Sent" was this is "Roots (Love, Lust and Greed)".  Pure and simple, it's a hair's breadth away from taking the top track of the album.  I can see why they took the album's title from this track.  You don't get attacked so much as annihilated, you are stamped into the bitter distance and then some more for good measure.  There is nothing fancy or flashy about this song, it's just an explosive and beautiful number. 

11 - Ludge

Alas, all things must come to an end and "Ludge" brings the curtains down on Love, Lust and Greed.  And what an ending we have here Ladies & Gentlemen.  You have a slow and meticulous song, one which attacks you with riff and riff, drum beat after drum beat and low slung bass with hits you in the chest.  There is positive aggression on this album, and "Ludge" is a great example on how you can achieve a sound that is both melodic and noisy at the same time.  It doesn't so much bring the curtain down, as tear it off the chain and set fire to the surroundings.   

Great Grief are in a unique and wonderful position.  At this present time, there are a few bands which are lazily being lumped together as "noise" rock, which is really another name for Hardcore/Alternative Punk.  You have Whores, Idles, Blacklister, The Armed, Tounge Party and now you can add Great Grief to that list of names.  Whilst all of these acts have a similar sonic attack, each one brings something different to the part.  Great Grief bring a new groove to this group of bands, something that is both melodic, noisy and harsh as walk over broken glass.  I love this album, it genuinely brings a smile to my face for all the wrong/right reasons (delete as applicable).  I think there is more to come from Great Grief, hence why I've marked it as shown below.  But that doesn't mean this is not a great album, if it had have been released a week earlier, it would have been in the top ten of 2018.  As it stands, it's the first album to book it's a ticket to the end of year list for 2019.  I hope that people check it out if you like any of the bands listed at the beginning of this paragraph, I know it'll hit that sweet noise spot!

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

Top track -Ivory (Lie)

You can purchase Love, Lust & Grief on Bandcamp here.

You can follow the activities of Great Grief on Facebook here.

You can stream Love, Lust and Greed on Spotify here.

You can stream Love, Lust & Greed on Deezer here.

At the time of writing, Love, Lust & Greed was not available on Tidal

14 January 2019

Valleyheart - Everyone I've Ever Loved

Valleyheart are a band who first came to my attention through a cover.  Last year, whilst looking for songs for my radio show, I found their cover of "Fourth of July", originally by Sufjan Stevens.   For me, their version of "Fourth of July" did what I always want a cover to do.  It feels different to the original, giving the song another dramatic facet which was the equal of the original.  But what about Valleyheart?  Well, not much to be honest.  They hail from Salem, Massachusetts, USA, they were formed in 2016 and Everyone I've Ever Loved was released on 14th December 2018.  After that, everything else about them, so I will instead focus on the album, how does it sound?

01 - Heaven & Hell

Opening track "Heaven & Hell" sets the scene for Everyone I've Ever Loved here, with a song about self-doubt and the desire to grow.  Their sound is massive (in terms of their chosen genre), it might start off gentle, but it builds slowly and surely towards a spectacular ending.  With"Heaven & Hell", Valleyheart start Everyone I've Ever Loved with a bang.  It's an attention-grabbing song, you're going to take notice of them straight away,

02 - Friends in the Foyer

The past can be a dangerous place for some people, sometimes the ghosts are just a whisper away.  "Friends in the Foyer" seems to be dealing with the implication of lost friendship, either by misadventure or beyond the veil.  Much like "Heaven & Hell", there is an epic feeling to this song, not that this is the most important song ever, but it's damn close.  I love this song, it's not one I could listen to that often, but in a good way.

03 - Crave

"Crave" once again brings the feelings, with a song that deals in the awkwardness of situations, hunger and routine.  It looks at coping mechanisms and a plea for forgiveness.  It's a perfect track three for this album, "Crave" still has a large level of intensity, but it's regained in compared to "Heaven & Hell" and "Friends in the Foyer".  It was the first song I heard off this album and it fills its place perfectly.

04 - Agnosia

"Agnosia" feels like an apology of sorts, which it turns out to be.  Apologising for letting go of a loved one, "Agnosia" is another melodic song with an Emo edge that would not have been out of place in the early days of the genre.  It's another good song, but a pattern is beginning to form with quiet verses and loud choruses.  I like it, just wondering if there will be a change at some point.

05 - Maryland

"Maryland" is a song which slays me, but because I have a feeling it might have been added for a different purpose than what it was given.  For one thing, whilst there is a noticeable increase in volume between the chorus and verse again, it's nowhere near as pronounced as it was on the first four tracks of Everyone I've Ever Loved.  Valleyheart look back on their past once again, watching their memories fade into nought, but the past has a way of grabbing your attention when you least expect it.  "Maryland" is one of my favourite songs on this album, it just feels massive without trying to be.

06 - Dissolve

"Dissolve" keeps up the good work on the album, but it's around this point that everything is starting to merge into one.  We're six songs in and there has been little to no deviation from the opening formula of each song.  It's a very good song, but I would have liked to have seen something different at this point.

07 - Drowned in Living Waters

Thankfully, there is some hope for this with "Drowned in Living Waters".  Whilst it's not that far away from the formula which is the background of Valleyheart, there is a noticeable difference to the little lull which was starting to develop.  It's another mid-paced, heartfelt anthem for the lost and disenchanted, trying to make sense of a world when everything is closing in.  But it's sung with such conviction and passion, that you can't help but fall under its charm.

08 - Your Name

Ah, the acoustic number!  I was wondering when this one would turn up, and Valleyheart have not placed it right on the end (thankfully).  "Your Name" is a beautiful song, a really charming and heartfelt number.  Thankfully it's not one that's by the numbers as well, which is always a danger for new bands.  But they show a level of maturity about them which you don't always see on a debut album.

09 - Intangible Dream

"Intangible Dream" is a song about longing, wish for a lover and promising to be different from everyone else they've ever met.  Using that mixture of light and dark once again, loud chorus and quiet verses which is the driving force of this song.  It's another one which could have easily gone wrong, but it turns out to be a charming number that gets stuck in your brain.  "Intangible Dream" is a sleeper hit on this album, one that creeps on you when you least expect it.

10 - Communion

"Communion" is the song which should have ended the album, if ever a track was screaming "ending track for all your concerts and mixtapes", it's "Communion".  This reflective and beautiful number just brings a lump to the throat, with that build dwarves a lot of this album (but in a good way).  I love "Communion", it sums up this album perfectly, I've been playing it for ages.

11 - Paradisum

"Paradisum" is a good song, a gentle piano ending with a vocal effect to bring the listener back down to earth.  But it's the wrong song to end this album on, it's a coda, an add-on when the album should have ended with "Communion" to be honest.  As I said, it's a good song, but maybe "Paradisum" should have been a secret track, that old-school device that makes old Punk and Alt. Rockers shiver in anticipation. 

Valleyheart have a unique sound in 2018/19, they've challenged the sound of The Ataris, Biffy Clyro, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Brand New (might not be popular, but they share a guitar tone), Counting Crows, Jonah Matranga and Sufjan Stevens.  I'm not saying that these bands and artists are influences, but I'm catching sounds of each of them in the sound of Everyone I've Ever Loved.  Yes, there are a few moments when a change of pace might have been effective, a little deviation from your original sound is never a bad thing.  But that will come naturally in time for Valleyheart, after all, this is the debut record. More importantly, Valleyheart have all these sounds as well as something else. They've their own take on what heartfelt Alternative Rock/Emo should sound like in the modern age.  This album is for the lonely, but without being an album that makes them sound like martyrs to their own pain. This new take on Alternative Rock/Emo seems to be returning to earlier roots of Emotional Rock, pain before fashion, love before profit and music before becoming an icon.  I applaud Valleyheart for this, but maybe a few stripped back songs next time?

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

Top track - Communion

You can purchase Everyone I've Ever Loved on Amazon here.

You can purchase Everyone I've Ever Loved on the Valleyheart Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Valleyheart on Facebook here.

You can stream Everyone I've Ever Loved on Spotify here.

You can stream Everyone I've Ever Loved on Deezer here.

You can stream Everyone I've Ever Loved on Tidal here.

13 January 2019

We Are Aran Glover Tribute - Cluny 2, Newcastle 12th January 2019

On the 12 of January, at the Cluny 2 in Newcastle upon Tyne, a gig was held in memory of Aran Glover, the frontman of We Are Knuckle Dragger who sadly took his own life last year.  Aran was a Giant in the North-East music scene, the stories (both good, great and cheeky) are soon to become the tales of myth and legend.  We Are Knuckle Dragger is one of my favourite bands and their album The Drone was my album of the year in 2013, I've ended up purchasing this record on CD, Vinyl and digital, each version receiving a regular airing.  Whilst I only chatted to Aran a couple of times, he was always welcoming and charming to a fault.

Last night at the Cluny 2, you could feel the love for Aran from the moment you arrived at the venue.  Each act who was on stage last night had a different sound, but each act was influenced by Aran and wanted to tip their hats one last time.  Opening act Richard McMahon started the show with a beautiful acoustic set, playing songs that could only have been created in the North-East of England.  Next up came Waheela, bringing the biggest contrast in styles that you could have imagined.  If you've followed this blog, you know my love for Waheela and tonight, they brought their "A" game and broke a few eardrums.  Dunes played a storming set, bring their own brand of Desert Rock and dug a groove.  Finally, the legend that is Dragnet grace the stage one more time, bringing their Grunge/Alternative Rock noise back for one night. 

Each act brought a smile to the face, played to the best of their abilities and pay tribute to their fallen brother in arms.  Music between the sets was provided by Steve Jones, who used to DJ at Get Ya Skates On, a Tuesday night at a local Uni which was the place to be at back in the day.  But the star of the show was in the middle of the stage all night, which was Aran's guitar.  It kept falling over, which was a brilliant tribute in its own right.  Aran used to throw it around the stage anyway, smashing it to the ground and subjecting everyone to glorious feedback.  The fact it was doing it on its own accord is the best tribute in my mind.  Whilst Aran is sadly no longer with us, his legend will continue to grow.  Rest in peace Aran, may you live in the hall of your fathers in peace.

All proceeds from last night's show are going to If You Care, Share (link here).  A charity which helps families who have lost loved ones to suicide, or people who feel suicidal and assists them to receive support and help them get the support that they need.  On the link above, you can visit their website and make any donation or see how you can help the charity.

Here is a link to If You Care, Share.

Aran's Guitar
This was the crowd about halfway through the night, it was rammed by the end of it.

From top Left clockwise - Richard McMahon, Waheela, Dragnet, Dunes

2 January 2019

Palisades - Erase the Pain

Palisades are a Post Hardcore/Electronicore five-piece, hailing from Iselin, New Jersey, USA.  Formed in 2011, Erase the Pain is their fourth album, following up from the 2017 self-titled studio record.  Over the years, they've toured with the likes of Capture the Crown, Famous Last Words, Of Mice & Men and many more.  In recent months, they've been coming to my attention via radio promos I've been sent, so I've been interested in this release.  Now, let's be honest here; apart from owning a copy of their last album, my knowledge of everything about Palisades has been harvested from Wikipedia.  However, that doesn't mean I've not been curious about Palisades and Erase the Pain.  The mash-up of Post Hardcore with Electronica sounds is an interesting prospect, so the only way to find out what you think is to listen to it.  So, here are my thoughts on Erase the Pain.

01 - Vendetta

After a short Electronic introduction, "Vendetta" is a song about self-doubt and revenge.  With themes that are familiar in all genres of Metal, you sort of get a feeling for Palisades from the beginning of Erase the Pain.  As introduction tracks, "Vendetta" is a loud and punchy affair.  Palisades grab your attention straight away, with a song that feels familiar and new at the same time.

02 - Erase the Pain

The title track of Erase the Pain is another song about wishing to be forgotten, trying to remember what it's like to not be numb and wanting some emotional baggage to fuck off.  The tempo drops a little with the start of the song, but it soon picks up with the chorus.  Energy-wise though, having this track as the second song on the album is not the best idea.  It takes something away from the album, diluting the fluidity too early.  However, "Erase the Pain" is a decent song, but I would have saved it for later on if I was in charge of the track sequence.

03 - Fade

"Fade" follows "Erase the Pain" and you feel a sense of
déjà vu.  Once again, we have a song about trying to figure out a way forward, about trying to move on.  The narrative of looking at yourself, assessing what has happened, whilst wondering how to move on from a state of emotional shock.  "Fade" is one of many slow numbers on Erase the Pain, one that hits all the Pop/Hardcore moment that have been the hallmarks of mainstream Metal channels over the last few years.  But whilst saying that, I'm aware that some people will have their mind made up about "Fade" and Palisades as well.  However, I would recommend giving "Fade" a chance, as Palisades have created an interesting song here, one that is infectious and beautiful.

04 - War

"War" is quite easily the standout track of Erase the Pain, with a massive riff throughout the song, strong lyrics and so many hooks that you could use it to go fishing.  This was the first track to be released from this album, and you can see why.  "War" left the biggest impression on me once the album had finished, you can feel the passion behind the band, this is them at their best and it shows.

05 - Run Away

"Run Away" returns to the idea of trying to deal with one's issues, to face them head on, but not having the courage to do it alone.  With the level of self-doubt shown on "Run Away", you get the feeling that the damage inflicted in this relationship was substantial.  Musically, "Run Away" feels as if it's been done before, done better and a little bit of a letdown.  After "War", they probably wanted to chill down the album, but I think they've done too good a job if that was their aim.

06 - Ghost

Now "Ghost" has a very interesting opening, a larger than life Metal riff that wouldn't be out of place on a Papa Roach album.  Then it gives way to a rather average little number sadly.  "Ghost" is a track which feels that the studio is not its natural environment.  You get the idea that it could be a definite crowd pleaser, but the drop from the opening into the first verse is too steep. It saps that small build up too much for my tastes.  I'm not saying that "Ghost" is a bad track per se, I've certainly heard a load worse.  But I've also heard a hell of a lot too.

07 - Fragile Bones

"Fragile Bones" returns to some familiar traits for Erase the Pain, with a tale of self-doubt, blame and added accusations of blame.  Musically, "Fragile Bones" is one of the strongest songs on Erase the Pain, as the band on full attack mode.  Lyrically though, I feel that Palisades have written stronger songs than this.  I understand there is a lot self-loathing on this album, but blaming others for issues in your own head has never been something that just doesn't sit well with me, so this is a track I would skip in the future.

08 - Push

"Push" follows that familiar pattern of Erase the Pain; self-doubt, asking for help, feeling stuck in a hole and craving escape.  Musically, Palisades sound very strong on "Push", with a great crunching sound to the guitars and massive drums.  And whilst I realise how it can be important to an isolated person to have a band or song that they can identify at a time of crisis, I also wonder what is Palisades endgame here?  Is there a way that they can point people in the right direction for help (and not in the form of medication)?  Just a thought here people; anyway, "Push" sounds as if it would be a massive hit live, but I'm not digging the lyrical content once again.

09 - Patient

Ah, we've reached the penultimate track with "Patient", which seems to be slightly different to 90% of Erase the Pain.  You have the usual self-loathing, but this time they are questioning the cause of their pain, asking the person behind the pain why they're causing so much pain in their life.  They are wanting to show them the pain that is being caused, trying to get them to stop and spare them any further pain.  By doing this, "Patient" stands out with "War" as one of the better tracks on Erase the Pain.  It's another song I would like to see played live, as it has a great progression throughout.

10 - Shed My Skin

"Shed My Skin" does something I was not expecting for this album, it ends Erase the Pain with a bang.  I was expecting a piano drive song the way the album, what I found was a song about trying to escape oneself.  "Shed My Skin" is another heavy number and it keeps the listener engaged.  The more I hear it, the more I want to press repeat.  If it was not for "War", "Shedding My Skin" would have been the top track on Erase the Pain.  I was pleasantly surprised here, I doth my cap to Palisades for this song, which brings the curtain down on Erase the Pain with a bang.

Overall, Erase the Pain is a good, solid fourth release from Palisades, who reminds me a lot of a few bands.  I'm hearing American Head Charge, I'm hearing Kill Hannah, there is a bit of Deftones, some Incubus, a little bit of Bloodsimple, as well as early Linkin Park and Papa Roach in their sound.  The Linkin Park comparison is the easiest to make with Palisades, but they have a lot more about them (no disrespect to LP there).  I would place their sound at the poppier end of Hardcore, or it might be the best representation of their chosen genre.  Erase the Pain doesn't outstay its welcome and Palisades can be proud of it. However, I think it's fair to say that this mightn't be a record I reach for again.  Not because it's a poor record though, I would never accuse Erase the Pain of being a dud.  I just can't say that it's the most original record I ever heard, or that it would have made my end of year list for 2018.  But equally, I can say that I found myself bored or disengaged by their sound either.  For me, Erase the Pain is a record that ended up not being my type of thing, this is how it turns out sometime.  However, I've got a feeling that some of these songs will thrive in the live arena. So, if Palisades ever come my way, I'd definitely go and see their show. As for Erase the Pain, file under not quite my thing, but well played none the less.

6.5 out of ten - Now, I see where you were going, but it's not quite there

Top track - War

You can purchase Erase the Pain on Amazon here.

You can visit the Palisades website here.

You can follow the activities of Palisades on Facebook here.

You can stream Erase the Pain on Spotify here.

You can stream Erase the Pain on Deezer here.

You can stream Erase the Pain on Tidal here.

28 December 2018

Adam Littlemore Music - Mirrors EP

It has been three years since I last reviewed Adam Littlemore Music, a Sunderland based ambient guitar artist.  The first piece of music I reviewed was his six-track demo release, which you can read here.  It was a solid release, one which felt as if there was a little bit more work to be done.  The demo just felt as if he was still trying to figure out his sound.  Any artist who is making music will tell you that they're never finished that search for this sound, it never ends with a release of new music. There will always be more sounds to explore, a hell of a lot more to do, ideas to edit in your mind,  All of which will bubble over, with experiments being conducted to bring that elusive sound that haunts your dreams.  I think that Adam has been on a quest since I last heard his music, with Mirrors EP being the end result.  Now, in the three years since the release of Adam Littlemore Music, it has not been quiet on his front.  He's been a regular name around the North-East and he has been picking up attention from a lot of people.

This leads me to the initial contact I received from ALM about reviewing this EP, for the poor lad was worried about the music being released before its official release date. As new music is something that is always incredibly precious to the musician who created it, I can understand why Adam was more than a little hesitant here.  When albums are sometimes leaked by record companies (lest we forget the cock-up that Father John Misty experienced), you have to be incredibly careful of your new product.  I would certainly be worried if it were my work going out, especially if it was before an EP launch at The Cluny.  But fear not, the music supplied will not be leaked here, I would never do that to any artist.

So, a little background about the recording of this EP:  The recording session happened on 27th September 2018 at Miners' Hall Studio, Sunderland, engineering and mixing were handled by James Hutchinson, with production duties being completed by Barry Hyde (of The Futureheads).  Which brings us back to the music itself.  For me here, I'm interested in finding out how Adam has progressed from the kid with some demos, how he has grown as an artist and developed his style.

01 - Refections

Starting with an atmospheric guitar, a quite drum machine and using samples about the position of the Earth in the Universe, "Refections" is a seven-minute song which seems to pass in the blink of an eye if you let it.  It rolls over you, with the gentle force of a stream as you listen to documentary footage about Earth's place in the universe.  It's very reminiscent of Public Service Broadcasting, with the sample and slow-building atmosphere.  There is also a hint of Warm Digits to the sound here too, but with a lot of Adam's own style which he brought to his original songs too.  I like "Refections" a lot, it soothes you and you cannot help but admire the sound created.

02 - Cracked Memories

"Cracked Memories" is a mash of sounds and noises from the guitar, all looped together to create a soundboard that smashes into you in waves.  The music seems to ebb and flow like the sea hits the coast.  You can imagine a video of water with this one, as the guitar hits you over and over again.  Unlike "Refections", there is no slow build here and that is refreshing as well, plus the bonus noise attack at the end is beautifully captured.  This is another track in the tick column.

03 -  Prisms

Using samples from the Apollo 11 Moonlanding, "Prisms" is a brilliant ending track for this EP.  It builds up and there is a focus to this track which was not there in his earlier demos.  The importance of this cannot be understated, as it gives the noise a purpose, a reason apart from random noise and beautiful tones.  The song builds with a Mogwai/Public Service Broadcasting patience, letting the riffs and notes mix well with the dialogue of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  This is the right track to end the Mirrors EP, it is the union of both of Adam's style, both the noise and the focused sides of his performance.

After listening to this EP, I can safely say that Adam has definitely made great strides in his sound.  The improvement cannot be understated here, which is a great thing to see.  You always want to see artists grow, to add to their sound and to take experiences and transform them into something else.  I can hear a lot of bands in this EP, as mentioned before I was reminded of Public Service Broadcasting, Warm Digits and also Mogwai too.  These are all cracking comparisons to be honest, something which is only natural with instrumental music.  If there was one thing about the release that threw me, it was the initial drum machine.  I wasn't too sure about it at first, but it works so well that you forget it there.  I think the additions to his sound have been added perfectly and the progress is massive.  Mirrors EP is a great release from Adam, one that will cement his growing reputation in the North East.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Prisms

You can follow the activities of Adam Littlemore Music on Facebook here.

The Adam Littlemore Music Soundcloud page can be found here.

Here is a link to the EP Launchpage on Facebook, which is happening at The Cluny on January 20th 2019.

At the time of writing, Mirrors EP is not available to purchase or stream.  However, once it has been released, I will update the links to purchase/hear it.

17 December 2018

The ATTIWLTMOWOS Top 40 Albums of 2018

I probably say this every year, but this year was a very good year for albums.  Whilst I didn't get to review every album I wanted to, I still had over 80 that made the required mark to reach this list.  There is a certain point on this list (not gonna say where) which every album afterwards would have been the AOTY, if it were not for the albums that follow.  But this is just the way the cookie crumbles.  Now, some of these albums were records I reviewed for the brilliant Bearded Gentlemen Music (a link to the blog here, check them out, all the team are mint!  Basically, any album I reviewed was up for this list, my blog - my rules!  Anyway, don't pay attention to the size of the album covers on the collage, that might be a red herring, what you need to do is read on - Eddie.

40 - Therapy? - Cleave

I love the tone of Cleave, it's meatier, thicker and sounds like the distorted sound of old.  But there is no feeling of trying to keep up with the current vogue of the world, no attempt to recapture their youthful rage or former glories here.  It's a short, sharp reminder that Therapy? never actually went away, they've always been there producing great records, and this is no exception to that rule.  Should I dare compare Cleave to their back catalogue?  Nah, what would be the point!  Let it stand out on its own and check it out yourself.

39 - Mantar - The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

I love The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze, it's a top-class metal album, one of the best in 2018 and is rightly receiving praise.  But the impact is not as big as their previous albums.  But no matter what, there's only one way to end this paragraph - All hail Mantar!

38 - Marmozets - Knowing What You Know Now

Knowing What You Know Now is a great record, one which is worthy of the praise and attention that it’s receiving, it’ll also shot them into the public eye even further than their brilliant debut The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets. When they’re on point, there are few acts who could better them.  They’re as important to the British Rock scene as any band that has come through the ranks and file in years, if not so more important.  However, and it’s just a small however, they should have knocked a few tracks off this one.  It’s not a bloated album by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have one or two fillers in the mix.  But a Marmozets filler is still better than a lot of bands A-sides, so as I said – this is a small however.  Overall, Knowing What You Know Now is an important record which lives up to the hype behind the band, it’ll be up there in the albums of the year for a lot of people.

37 - Sick of It All - Wake the Sleeping Dragon

Because of the nature of Hardcore music, Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a fast and furious release.  Now, whilst I truly enjoy this album, I also recognise it's an album that sticks to their guns.  Which is exactly how it should be.  If Sick of It All had of a suddenly changed even an iota, it would have sucked.  So, more props to them for sticking to that course they started years ago.  I love each of these songs, they never put a foot wrong throughout the album and it just goes to show, you truly cannot keep a good band down.  Sick of It All are as vital and alive in 2018 as they were when they first emerged on to the New York Hardcore Scene. Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a reminder that they've never been away!  

36 - Buñuel - The Easy Way Out

With each repeat of The Easy Way Out, you're no closer to understanding Buñuel.  You can say that you are, but that's a lie.  The Easy Way Out is a beautiful piece of art, an album that mixes the poetry of Eugene S. Robinson with the wondrous music of Messrs Iriondo, Capovilla and Valente.  Is it for mass consumption, no - not even close.  It's for people who enjoy music that confronts them, it's for those who want an album that will challenge them.  I've never come away from listening to this album without being impressed with it, or feeling as if I've been taken to school.  It's an enigma, a puzzle that I bring out of my collection to take away the grime of the day.

35 - Thomas Truax - All That Heaven Allows

I think Sir Thomas might have nailed it here, and I don’t say that lightly.  Each track on All That Heaven Allows could easily be transferred into his live set, some of them already have and they sound brilliant in studio form.  Each time I have spun this record, my love for this album has grown and it’s never lost my attention.  Are there any issues?  Well, apart from one song which does not quite cut the mustard for me, it’s the best work that Sir Thomas has released (I’m still upset he’s not got his real knighthood!!!).  I would recommend going to his live shows, purchasing this album and immersing yourself in the strange and wonderful world of Wowtown, you may never want to leave…...

34 - VETO - 16 Colors

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. 

33 - Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

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.

32 - Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man

World's Strongest Man is 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.

31 - Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers

Over the thirteen tracks, Richard Thompson serenades you with hard rock, folk, gentle ballads, urgent pleas for help.  Coming in at just under fifty-five minutes, but it feels a lot shorter than that to be honest.  It demands nothing but utter engagement from the listener, this is a record that you cannot ignore, and you wouldn't want to anyway.  If (like myself), 13 Rivers is your first introduction to Richard Thompson, then you're in for a treat.  Now, let's get to work on that back catalogue.

30 - KEN Mode - Loved

Loved is a fantastic album, a Pandora's box that you can't close and probably won't want to.  I love the style; the production is massive and you have ringing in your ears long after the final note has finished.  In a year with some truly epic Metal/Sludge albums, KEN Mode have created something special on Loved.

29 - Eels - The Deconstruction

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.

28 - Miles Hunt - The Custodian

What I love about The Custodian is the craftsmanship, love and effort that Miles has put into this project.  The attention to detail by a man who knows his worth is beautiful to hear.  Each track has been lovely re-created, the new song "Custodian" is brilliant, and I look forward to hearing it live.  This is a body of work that he should rightfully be proud of and one that his fans will enjoy immensely.  This is an essential piece for any fan of The Wonder Stuff or music in general.

27 - Thom Yorke - Suspiria

The further into Suspiria you descend, the more you wish you had the visuals.  Thom Yorke has made this a compelling piece of art, but I feel as if I'm cheating the movie out of something here.  This is a soundtrack which deserves the dancers, the violence and the screams to make it complete.  I'm not saying that the album is poor, quite far from it!  This is one of the best solo pieces from Thom Yorke that I've ever heard.  It's such a dark record, such a deep work of art and so out of the edge, that I want to see what is fuelling it.  I love the strange noises, but I want more. Because of the lack of context, I can't give Suspiria a full mark at this juncture. 

26 - Youth Killed It - What's So Great, Britain?

What's So Great, Britain? is a brilliant modern Indie Rock album which has influences in the past, but it's also stamped with their own identity.  They might be shaking their head at the state of this country, but they've made an album that should put them on the musical map of this country.  This is a great record and you should get it as soon as it's released. 

25 - PigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigs - King of Cowards

At this point, I usually try to look for any negatives on an album, just so the review doesn't come across as a love letter.  But I can't do that here.  From "GNT" through to "Gloamer", each track is a psychedelic doom monster, one that you can invest yourself into and enjoy the moment.  With each spin, King of Cowards delivers and somehow gets better.  Everything about this release is amazing, it's over the top and it sounds glorious.  

24 - The Virginmarys - Northern Sun Sessions

With this approach, there is always a danger that it could all turn to shit.  Sometimes it can be a little bit too heavy, sometimes it can sink an album.  Thankfully, Northern Sun Sessions is not one of those albums.  The Virginmarys are a tight duo, so they know their strengths and they can make the same amount of noise as many five-piece bands.  It's an album that makes you want to jump around and fills the world with sunshine. The Virginmarys have upped the ante on Northern Sun Sessions, making all the right moves and sounding like fighting champions.  This is a passion project and it sounds great, definitely one that I would recommend to people who love their punk from the North!

23 - The Winter Hill Transmission - The Winter Hill Transmission

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.   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……...

22 - Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross, No Crown

(Original review published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

The overall sound is smoother than the feral beast that is IX, you can see the influence of Mr. Kennan’s influence on their sound and I cannot argue with the results.  We find CoC to be in fine form on No Cross No Crown, which is not surprising when you consider the pedigree of the band.  Even at this early stage of 2018, this is could be a contender for the Metal album of the year.  If there is only one issue, I have is No Cross No Crown is that it’s a little too polished when you compare it to IX, but that has turned into my favourite CoC album ever.  So, there was already a hard act to follow in my mind, but I must admit that they have done a great job here.  And the reason for that is that they didn’t play it safe and repeat the same record, they mixed their classic sound with a bit more metal and delivered the goods.  This album is a record that keeps getting better with each spin, so this could turn out to be a slow burner for the rest of 2018.

21 - Antarctigo Vespucci - Love in the Time of Email

I like Love in the Time of E-Mail a lot, it's a contradiction in terms of messages, the positivity of the music is contrasted by the meaning of the songs.  Yet it all comes together, meshing into a beautiful painting of joy and sorrow.  Somehow, they combine everything into this fantastic record that may have a cover of a photo in the snow, but it'll leave anyone who hears it elated and full of energy.  I don't think I've enjoyed a side project as much since Grinderman by Nick Cave, I think I cannot think of any praise which is higher than that. Viva La Antartctigo Vespucci!

20 - Ginger Wildheart - The Pessimist's Companion

Well, this is a hard album on the soul.  The Pessimist's Companion is a beautiful record, one that will break everyone's heart and then some.  If you thought Ghost in the Tanglewood was devastating, then you might need to only listen to this in the company of others.  It's a weeper, a bruiser and a heartbreaker, I can see why this is getting so much good press at the moment.  If you're looking for fist-pumping anthems, then you'll need to look elsewhere.  If you're looking for candy coloured pop-rock, you will be able to find that on other records.  If you're looking for someone to voice your broken words and to help you heal, The Pessimist's Companion might be able to support.  

19 - Bloods - Feelings

Due to the short nature of Feelings, you can easily listen to it twice in an hour and not get bored.  If I have one complaint about Feelings, it's front-loaded.  The first five songs, from the glorious "Bring My Walls Down" to "N C C" are really good.  The second half, whilst not poor by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn't have the same impact as those initial five tracks.  This gives the album an uneven feeling, but not enough to sink the album.  It's just my own take on this record.  Overall, Feelings is a little ray of fuzzy sunshine, one that is making this winter in the UK a nicer place.  As I said before, I wish Sweetie good luck and I hope that Bloods release more albums.

18 - Not Scientists - Golden Staples

Golden Staples is a rewarding record, it has some rough edges and I love the fact that it reveals more about itself each time.  As I previously said, if they had done a repeat of their earlier work, it would have sucked and shown them to be a one trick pony.  Golden Staples is a great record, one which has some depths that I’ve not fully explored, but that will change over time.  If you’re looking for new indie/punk heroes, Golden Staples is the album for you.

17 - MGMT - Little Dark Age

Little Dark Age is the best album that MGMT has released ever.  This is not open for debate, it’s their most consistent record, their most focused record and MGMT's most adventurous as well.  I love the fact it’s trying something different to their normal stuff, it goes out on a limb, it takes the leap of faith into the unknown.  I love that they had the confidence to release this record, I cannot praise it enough and I hope it gets the respect and reception I think it deserves.  And it's a multi-produced album that I love, this is truly a rare and wonderful beast of a record!

16 - Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions

(Original review published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

Clutch are the modern-day Motorhead, no-one can beat them at their own game.  You couldn’t mistake this for anyone else, they are masters of this genre.  Others might imitate them, but no-one comes close to matching their sound.   They know exactly what they need to make an album perfect.  It’s never too flash, just pure rock fury.  And above all, they make it look so easy! That is the hardest part, having the ability to make it look effortless.  With Book of Bad Decisions, they have further cemented that reputation of greatness!  It’s a reputation that is justified as well.  Book of Bad Decisions is a brilliant record, one that is not a direct follow on from Psychic Warfare, but you can trace the lineage with ease. Book of Bad Decisions will be hailed as one of their best, mark my words here.  It’ll receive praise from all corners of the rock community.  Are there any issues?  Yes, it ends too soon!  They have made my end of year album chart interesting. I love this record.  To quote “How to Shake Hands” “……hot damn!”

15 - The Chewers - Downhill Calendar

The Chewers are showcasing everything that makes them special and unique on this album.  Downhill Calendar is a brilliant album, with its maverick spirit that possesses the trinity of Primus, the droning tone of Waheela (without the metal) and the originality of themselves, they are on a winner here.  Downhill Calendar is a neat package of noise, drone and bat crap crazy sound.  I cannot tell you how much I love this album, it's another joyful trip into the unknown and beyond.  Welcome back The Chewers, we've missed you!

14 - Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance

In one sense, the steps forward here are not huge, some tracks could have fitted effortlessly on Brutalism.  Is that really a crime though?  It's only just been over a year since Brutalism was released, so their sound is not going to be that much different.  Therefore, it shouldn't really be an issue here.  At the end of the day, I'm focusing on how the album leaves me once the final note has rung out.  I think they've reached whatever target they set themselves. Joy as an Act of Resistance takes them further down the road towards infamy, it meets the hype head on and hits it out of the park.  It's a harrowing, vicious and brutal record in places, but who said Idles were ever easy?  I love it, it's a small improvement on everything from Brutalism, so it's not the shocker that I was expecting.  Don't get me wrong, that doesn't change the outcome for Joy as an Act of Resistance.  This is a great album and it'll be near the top of my end of year list.  It doesn't repeat the shock and awe of their debut, but that was never on the card in some ways.  

13 - Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Look Now

Look Now is the album that I was not expecting, which means it’s sort of the album I needed as well.  It's a thing of beauty and it soothes the wounded soul, I cannot stop listening to it in my spare time. From the first note to the last, each song is a little oasis of pleasure and joy.  I could easily lose myself in this record for a few hours at a time, with the music full of hooks, charm and beauty.  Every now and then, I might (for my shame) forget how great a songwriter Elvis Costello can be.  Look Now is a reminder that he's not done with this world yet, it's a passionate and beautiful record.  The album of the year list has just gotten interesting at the 11th hour, I think that if you give Look Now a chance, so will yours.

12 - Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

If you're a fan of Alkaline Trio, Is This Thing Cursed? will be the best thing that they've ever done as it hits all their high-water marks and the joy of having them back in the world.  If you're a casual fan, it'll deliver everything you wanted and a lot more which you'll be able to explore later.  Basically, Is This Thing Cursed? is their strongest album since From Here to Infirmity, it's that damn good and if they're cursed, then it's fuelled a fantastic record!  Let's not leave it so long next time, OK?

11 - David Byrne - American Utopia

American Utopia is a stunning record, one which shows how relevant David Byrne is in 2018 as he was back in the '70s and '80s.  Each song is a strange tale, a cautionary look at the world and seeing how it's going to hell in a handbasket.  Yes, there was the controversy upon its release, but I think that was caused by people looking for issues.  We are living in a new Puritan age after all.  This is Pop Music for Avant-Garde fans, what is there not to love?
10 - Sad Hill - Good if it Goes

Musically, Good if it Goes is a great little album.  Like most Emo music, it's not a technical master class in the same way that Frank Zappa never made a straightforward rock album.  But in it's given genre, it's spot on and a shining example that Emo has a place in 2018.  I love the honest nature of the songs, the beautiful artwork and the overall package.  Are there any issues?  To be honest, not really.  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  Good if it Goes is a God-honest Emo record, created out of love, frustration, tears, and hope.  What is there not to like?

09 - Frank Turner - Be More Kind

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?

08 - The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

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 one of the best albums of the year, it’s that damn good.

07 - Alice In Chains - Rainer Fog

I can wax lyrical about Rainier Fog all day, it's a brilliant album and a worthy addition to the AiC discography.  Each song is a brilliant reminder of their legend and a dark anyway which will brighten your day.  To be honest, Alice in Chains rarely placed a foot wrong.  Even when they do, it was only against their own high standards.  Are there any issues with it?  No, it's as good as they get.  It's full of melancholic noise, heart bleeding solos, breath-taking passages and top-quality craftsmanship.  When you compare it to their other records, only Dirt, Black Gives Way to Blue and the Jar of Flies EP are ahead of it.  And those three are stone cold classics.  One day I might regret only giving this nine out of ten, but that is an issue for the future.  Rainier Fog is a must have for not just anyone who considers themselves not only an Alice in Chains fan, but for anyone who considers themselves a fan of music in general.

06 - Sylvaine - Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone

Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone has bucked the trend for third albums.  It's an absolute corker, a real treat as we approach the winter months of 2018 and one that I'm enthralled with.  But the biggest pleasure I get from this album is not the music.  It's the joy in seeing an artist developing into something more.  Sylvaine has improved with each record, taking someone who was not really acquainted with Blackgaze and made him into a fan.  For that, I'm truly thankful to Sylvaine for that initial email. Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone will be high on a lot of people's end of year lists, I recommend you checking it out now.

05 - Laura Veirs - The Lookout

The Lookout is one of those gentle albums which leaves you breathless, but it's as gentle as a breeze.  It also 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.

04 - We Are Scientists - Megaplex

(Originally published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

The song writing has always been the key thing for me with WAS, when they get it right, they are unbeatable.   For 90% of Megaplex, they reach and achieve that high standard.  The only track which feels like a filler, is sadly the ending track, “Properties of Perception”.  It just feels a little weak after those stunning songs that preceded it, which is a bit of a shame.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that Megaplex is my most played album of 2018 so far.  It’s a bit of a charmer, you think you can put it to the side, but you just want to return to it more and more.

03 - Soul Dissolution - Stardust

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. 

02 - Amorphis - Queen of Time

Because this is such a long album, you're either going to fully invest in it or walk away.  Queen of Time is not something to put it on for ease or to have on in the background.  You’re either going to be committed or you’re out the door.  To be honest, if you step over this album, you’ll be missing one of the best European Metal acts ever.  Everything about this album is amazing, from the opening moments of “The Bee” to the closing of “Pyres on the Coast”, there is no wasted note, no waste beat, no wasted sound.  This is an album when each band member has a moment to shine, a moment in the sun and it's a jaw-dropping experience. I was staggeringly impressed with Under the Red Cloud, I’m just as impressed with Queen of Time.

01 - YOB - Our Raw Heart

(Originally published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

At the time of Our Raw Heart, Yob were in healing mode.  This was Mike’s way of expressing what had happened (directly or indirectly).   It was Aaron’s and Travis’s way of supporting their friend. It was producer Billy’s job to document this healing processes.  This record is bathed in emotions.  It feels like a raw nerve, it contains something which is beyond comprehension.  To be able to understand it, you need to have experienced something similar.  But most of all, this is a towering statement of how music can heal you.
If it wasn’t for the trials YOB have experienced, could Our Raw Heart exist?  I don’t know if a song such as “Beauty of Fallen Leaves” would exist.  Would “In Reverie” would have contained that same impact or sounded different?  Maybe the atmosphere of “Lungs Reach” could have changed.  Who knows, these are “what if” questions.  All I can tell you about is my own reaction to Our Raw Heart.  By the time you reach “Our Raw Heart” at the end of the record, you feel relief and joy.  But to be honest, it’s as if no time has passed at all.  I’ve found myself reaching for repeat each time I’ve listened to this record, it’s just a stunning experience.

And there you have it!  Well done to YOB and to all the other artists who made this list.  Until next year! - Eddie

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