The Elijah: A Son A Disease (ep)

The Shropshire rockers show a more ambient side than a lot of their contemporaries which is evident from the opening track of this 5 track ep. My ears pricked up as soon as Since I Was Born started with some beautiful orchestration and heavenly vocals but that was soon put aside as the wee shouty man appeared. I'm always confused when a band that makes music that is as stirring, original and mesmerising as this lot do have to go and spoil it with the whole screamo thing. Seriously... it sound like mad uncle Dan has wandered into the studio and went off on one.

Things pretty much stay the same throughout as mad uncle Dan does his best to turn track after track into something unlistenable. Shame as these guys really do know how to write a cracking tune and guitarist Michael, the one who can actually sing, has an incredible voice. As hard as I try, I just don't get why these guys need to do the whole screamo thing.

www.myspace.com/theelijahuk

~ Monday, 6 December 2010

Sweet Gorilla Band: Feels Like I'm Still In Love (single)

Sweet Gorilla Band seem to have been plucked from obscurity by renowned producer Youth when he spotted the band playing at Putney's legendary Half Moon earlier this year and this is the debut single for the band fronted by guitarist and songwriter Pav Sharda.

I was expecting something special from Feels Like I'm Still In Love but the reality is a pedestrian slice of plod rock, a beautifully produced slice of plod rock, but plod rock none the less. The lack of depth to the songwriting is only highlighted even more in the truly diabolical chorus which is blandness personified. Despite the glowing recommendations from Youth on the accompanying press release, it is hard to see from this single just what it is that he finds so special.


www.sweetgorillaband.com

~

Miss Quincy: Your Mama Don't Like Me

Following hot on the heels of 2009's self titled Miss Quincy and the Ramblers, the Canadian roots songstress carries on her upbeat spirit that makes nods towards jazz, gypsy and melodrama in an intriguing mix of styles. She shares a similar territory to Myshkin's Ruby Warblers and even KT Tunstall that gives her sound an air of familiarity. For me, as much as I do really like this record, her voice is an acquired taste which verges on the annoying side of bohemian. Imagine a nasal sounding KD Lang. I'm sure there are those who will love the quirkiness of her dulcet tones but for me it makes an uncomfortable bedfellow given the strength of her songs.

The title track opens the album with its Charleston inspired arrangement that harks back to the hot dance clubs of the 20's and credit where credit is due, she pulls it off with considerable aplomb.
Nobody With You is a strange beast. You can hear a Polka in there with a very Parisian feel that she again pulls off perfectly. It shouldn't really work, but it does. The stripped back Record Store is just crying out for her to tame her vocals to the backing but she decided on doing the whole vocal gymnastics thing and a beautiful song is laid to waste.

When she does get the balance of vocals and music just right, the results are stunning like on Wild Mountain Flower and Dirty Boat, with the former being the pick of the album for me. This is a record that has both charmed and frustrated me in equal measure. Without question, the talent is there but for me the execution needs a bit more refining.

www.missquincy.net

[][][] (3/5)

~

Bruno Coulais & Kila: The Secret Of Kells

This record is the soundtrack to the animated feature The Secret Of Kells, a film which has critics and audiences alike showering it with praise. Much of the films atmosphere is down to the inspired soundtrack of French composer Bruno Coulais and Irish world fusion band Kila but without the visuals to back it up can it stand in its own right? Well, yes and no. The atmosphere that it creates is magical with ethereal sounds washing over you in a relaxation inducing tide of calm. It really does sound wonderful but if you are looking for songs in the traditional sense then you won't get that here with only the two final track of the 21, Epicy and Cardinal Knowledge, taken from Kila's Lemonade & Buns album and 2007's album Gamblers' Ballet respectively, having the structure of a recognisable song.

Personally, I love this. It just sounds amazing. The production, the instrumentation, the arrangements... they are just simply beautiful. For fans of Kila, this will not be a million miles away from what they know and love but given that most of the music was composed and orchestrated by Coulais, it does bring a different dimension to proceedings.

If you are looking for something that captures the spirit of the Ireland of legends, myths and tall tales then this album will transport you there with effortless ease. This is a beautiful piece of work that stands alone from the film but if you really want to experience it the way it was intended, then sit back, turn down the lights, take the phone of the hook and watch the magical film.

www.thesecretofkells.com

[][][][] (4/5)

~

JT and the Clouds: Caledonia

Chicago's JT and the Clouds have a pop soul sound kind of like Hootie and the Blowfish or John Mayer that I'm sure has massive commercial appeal but it is also predictable, middle of the road and unoriginal. Take the opener Fever Dream as an example where the guitar is lifted straight from the Doobie Brothers and the track just never seems to get out of first gear sitting in a comfortable monotony that pervades this whole of this album.

The one thing that does hold this album together through the blandness of the music is the vocals of front man Jeremy 'JT' Lindsay who sound like a mix of Sam Cooke, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart. Don't get me wrong, there are some good songs on here like Playin' Dozens, How It Runs and The Wolf but the sugar coated production sounds like the music has had the life compressed out of it. There is no definition to the instruments and everything just merges together into a lifeless mass that becomes more frustrating with every listen.

What could have been a quirky and powerful record is lost with only the last track Nobody Wants To Be Alone Nobody Wants To Die showing what the rest of this record could have been. Which raises the question why they could not have given the same dynamics to the rest of the album. Pity.

www.jtandtheclouds.com

[][][ (2.5/5)

~

The Galileo 7: Are We Having Fun Yet?

If you like the Lightning Seeds, and sadly there are many who do, then good news... The Galileo 7 are here to do their best to sound exactly like Ian Broadie with their charmless, ever-so-happy pop that thinks it is psychedelic but it ain't. You can see what they are trying to do with their organ driven mod-rock sound but given the quality of the vocals, production and organ playing it was never going to work.

I was really looking forward to this album as it is released on Teen Sound Records, an offshoot of the brilliant Italian Psych label Misty Lane, but while this record has some charm, it feels more like a novelty record or a surreal Mighty Boosh sketch where the band think they are better than they are and they are the only ones who can't see it. Ok, maybe I'm being unfair here. The production doesn't help them. The sound is muddier than a swamp and devoid of any of the warmth that my beloved 60's garage and psych vinyl collection possesses. I'm sure the guys also own a mighty fine record collection but it doesn't show here. There is no point in going through this album track by track as it doesn't deserve it. It really doesn't.

After listening to this album for well over a week I still couldn't tell you the name of any of the tracks on here or a single lyric. To answer the guys question in the album's title.... NO!

www.myspace.com/thegalileoseven

[] (1/5)

~

Rachel Harrington: Celilo Falls

Rachel Harrington has been a welcome visitor to these shores for many years now and has built a strong reputation for her live shows, both solo and with Lindisfarne's Rod Clements, but she has been sadly overlooked with her recorded output. With this her third studio album, she looks set to redress that imbalance with a beautiful sounding record packed full of inspirational and stirring Americana that stands her apart from many of her contemporaries.

You are left in no doubt about Harrington's musical preferences from the very start of the record with House Of Cards oozing a Southern Delta sauciness complete with vocals that roll and drawl with a world weariness of someone who has seen life through a different pair of eyes. Here In My Bed is a song of true quality and rare beauty, the outstanding track here in my humble opinion, that strips the arrangement back to allow her voice to steal the show.

The quality continues in the poetic Goodbye Amsterdam, the lilting You Don't Know and the magical Where Are You and then we arrive at her cover of Art Hanlon's Spokane where Harrington makes it her own and, dare I say, betters Hanlon himself. This is an album that will instantly hook any fan of Americana and offers even the casual listener a hugely rewarding experience. Harrington deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Nancy Griffith, Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris and this album will make sure she is.

www.rachelharrington.net


[][][][] (4/5)

~

Dar Williams: Many Great Companions

This double album retrospective from Williams show just what an outstanding body of work she has to draw on. Call her what you will. Folk singer, Americana balladeer or just singer songwriter, it is hard not to listen to this without unforgiving admiration. The first of the two discs see her re-record many of her finest songs stripped to the bare with just acoustic guitar and vocals. This is something that many have done before but the twinning of Williams beautiful voice and the simplicity of her songs make this a record of rare beauty. The whole thing is given further gravitas with guest appearances from a stellar cast including Mary Chapin Carpenter and Gary Louris. Both If I Wrote You and The One Who Knows sound simply breathtaking given the addition of harmonies from Louris and Carpenter respectively, but this is a record where you won't feel the need to hit the skip button as the quality throughout never dips below stunning.

The second of the 2 discs follows a more straight forward greatest hits format showcasing tracks from her 15 year career and shows that she understand the commercial demands of radio and record labels without sacrificing your integrity as a songwriter. There are comparisons in her style with Alanis Morrissette, Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega but while she has never received the mainstream success of the aforementioned, it brings into sharp contrast what a adaptable and contemporary artist she is. From the lilting americana tinged February to the rockin' It's Alright she shows herself to be a storyteller and orator to match Paul Simon or Jackson Brown while on Are You Out There you can imaging that KT Tunstall may have had this song on repeat when she was writing her new album.

Personally I prefer the acoustic cd, purely for the atmosphere it creates, but this is a mighty fine showcase of a talent that surely deserves far more airplay and column inches than she currently receives.


www.darwilliams.com

[][][][][ (4.5/5)

~ Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Kimmie Rhodes: Miracles On Christmas Day

Bah humbug. Is it just me or does your blood run cold at the thought of a Christmas album. I dread the office party here at Music Critic hq. I would happily throttle Noddy Holder, Aled Jones and all those countless smug gits inflicting their ho, ho, ho, jingle flippin' bells on us every year while the royalty cheques roll in. Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhh.

Oh well.... here goes. Miracles On Christmas Day started out as a project to write a Christmas song each year and now comes out as 'a present to all her friends worldwide'. 'So she is giving it away free' I hear you ask. Nope.... Not much of a present then is it. I like Kimmie Rhodes so I really wanted to be positive and like this album but with the odd exception it hits every cliche under the sun. Not even the excellent production and stellar cast of musicians can disguise the fact that this is a pretty underwhelming record.

The title track pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with this album. It is so sugary I can feel my teeth hurt within the first few bars. It has been a long, long time since I have heard a more tedious and nauseating song than this.
By complete contrast, her cover of Carol Of The Bells is magnificent. Her wispy voice suits perfectly the folk balladry and outright weirdness of this song. In a similar vain is the beguiling and beautiful cover of William Chatterton Dix's What Child Is This set to the music of Greensleeves. It really is something of beauty. Unfortunately, these two song aside, this is an epically bad record.

Her album with Willie Nelson, Picture In A Frame, is a record that is never far from my turntable and 2007's Walls Fall Down was one of my favourite albums of that year, so It is hard to believe that she has manged to get it so wrong with this record.


www.kimmierhodes.com

[] (1/5)

~ Monday, 15 November 2010

Lynn Miles: Fall For Beauty

Fall For Beauty is the eighth studio album by Canada’s Lynn Miles. It’s an accomplished and polished album, it’s clear the woman has heart, can sing and knows her way around a decent country folk song. She has a confidence yet a sweet lilting vulnerability.

There is also an honesty and truth solidified by life experience in this album as Miles writes from the heart on Little Bird and Three Chords and the Truth. Fall For Beauty opens with a country epic, is there such a thing as a Springsteen-esque stadium filler? If there is then it has to be Something Beautiful.

There’s a strange thing going on with Lynn Miles, she has a sweet country folk voice but there’s a dark undercurrent on this album’s subject matter. The song Love Doesn’t Hurt broaches abusive relationships and domestic violence.

There is a downside and it’s just a minor point and only my opinion but after a while the formula feels too similar and all the songs seem to merge into one. This isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s all very melodic but suffers from being a bit formulaic and heavy on cliché. Who will love this? Fans of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin and Kim Richey.

For fans of country, folk and a sweet voice, this is a must. Mainstream success though close will maybe have to wait.

www.lynnmilesmusic.com

[][][][ (3.5/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Roselands: Faded Postmark

Delusion can be deceitful. That inner belief that no matter how bereft of talent people in bands are, no matter how many times people tell them how bad they are, they still continue. When it gets to the point that the only positive quality of any piece of work is your perseverance it may be time to think about that job in the call centre.

I’m guessing and I may be wrong that Mark McLaughlin is closer to 40 than 20 and has surrounded himself with people who tell to him about how great he is as a singer songwriter and how amazing his band are. How he sounds so much like Van Morrison.

Why keep going? Delusion. Now in London, main man Mark McLaughlin, like so many before him sings, I use that term lightly, he tries to sing, clichéd songs of lost love and Glasgow School of Art and the rain and connects that to the romantic image of a sepia tinged America that bands like The Bathers did so much better twenty years ago.

Roselands have made a huge mistake. They think that we are interested in anything creative they have to offer. I can’t think of anything positive to say about this album. Its mediocrity scares me. From the opening out of tune Walk This World to By and By.

This album should be held up as proof that record companies know their job and would never give a band like this a deal. Sadly the modern age easily allows bands like this the opportunity to release anything.

www.myspace.com/roselands

(0/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Larkin Poe: Summer - An EP

Larkin Poe are Rebecca and Megan Lovell, formerly, till January 2010, The Lovell Sisters. This incarnation of the band sees them move toward a more literal storytelling style with less emphasis on bluegrass and more focus on pop and soul.

Interestingly, Summer is the second mini album in a series of seasonal releases of four albums. The openers Praying For The Bell To Ring and Sea Song skip along with a nice atmospheric Americana feel. A great soundtrack to a drive through winding country roads and sleepy one horse towns. The mood changes by Wrestling A Stranger, it becomes a bit more tense as the band, particularly Chad Melton on drums, go for it, as they hit the pedal to the floor and get out of town sharpish. We rein it in a bit as the songwriting takes centre stage again on the brilliantly assured Natalie and Enough For You.

Overall, I’m genuinely of the opinion that live tracks on an LP or mini album are a bit of an easy option and should be kept for B sides of single releases. In Larkin Poe’s case it actually serves well as we hear how skilled and confident they are live. There version of Massive Attack’s Teardrop seals the deal.

I cant wait for Autumn. A definite buy.

www.larkinpoe.com

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Sunday, 7 November 2010

Izzi Dunn: Cries and Smiles

Singer songwriter and cellist Izzi Dunn arrives with serious credentials, recent collaborations and tours with Gorillaz, Roots Manuva and Mark Ronson. On Cries and Smiles, a smooth confident album from start to finish, this slice of R&B and stylish jazz soul is brilliantly delivered and could see her kick into the mainstream.

The single Nothing But Love is a well produced high end song, co-written with house producer Tom Middleton that could be a smash in the US. On Loser, a collaboration with Booty Brown, who Izzi met when on tour with The Gorilallaz shows an eye for contemporary pop. Then we hear her adaptability with a stripped down atmospheric track called Kill Me Slow reminiscent in melody to Amy Winehouse and in vibe, to Portishead.

There are some great punchy soul string parts and clever ideas throughout that remind you of albums by Prince and Chaka Khan. As well as talented pals, Izzi clearly brings insight and a great record collection to the studio. On Analogue Girl she’s reading my mind. My favourite song by far. I agree completely, longing for the golden age when things were simple and Beta Max king! 'I like old cassettes and dusty 45’s' sings Izzi, tongue warbling firmly in her cheek.

What has to be said at this point is this isn’t normally my favourite musical genre. I don’t do modern R&B, preferring to go to the source; Curtis Mayfield. So if this old Ramones fan is excited then she’s definitely on to a mainstream winner.

www.izzidunn.com

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Jake Cogan and the liberty roses: Jake Cogan and the liberty roses

Scottish singer songwriter Jake Cogan has been making a few waves across the folk and pop world with her enigmatic stage performances and beautifully crafted songs for a few years now. With most of the songs being co-writes or covers, the emphasis is firmly put on Cogan's considerable vocal talents with the blend of folk and pop melodies acting as embellishments to her breathy and haunting voice.

Album opener The Endless Road is a rather uninspiring affair, mainly due to the lack luster production of Marc Pilley but things are soon redeemed with the spirited fiddle and banjo driven Spinning Rooms. It is however with the arrival of her cover of the Jimmy McCarthy classic The Mad Lady and Me that you become fully aware that you are listening to a very special talent. Christy Moore and Sinead O'Connor have both covered this song but Cogan takes it and gives a performance that towers head and shoulders above their versions which is no mean feat.

The beautiful Tonight is driven by the inspired inclusion of a Tabla drum and serves to give a unique feel to the whole song by tying together the haunted vocals with the ethereal fiddle arrangement. The whole effect is quite mesmerising. Cogan again manages to pull of a masterstroke with her cover of Gillian Welch's Annabelle where she outshines the original
with a performance that is simply breath taking.

The album closes on the stark and bittersweet A Road Less Travelled which again highlights the breathy, almost pained, vocals of Cogan who is sure to find herself on a much bigger stage with the release of this album. It is not perfect but that is easily forgiven because of that voice... and oh what a voice it is.

www.jakecogan.com

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Friday, 5 November 2010

Toy Tin Soldier: Toy Tin Soldier

TTS are a wee bit of a Scottish super group with members of the band also playing with The Proclaimers, Horse and Mr Kil to name but a few, so it would be fair to say that there is a fair bit of expectation on the bands shoulders. The band is primarily a vehicle for the songwriting talents of Joe Gallacher. The Blantyre lad headed to Brighton to serve his musical apprenticeship which included joining up with the guys from Turin Breaks before heading back to Glasgow with a head full of songs and a new found maturity to his voice and writing approach.

The album kicks off with the mellow Only Pictures, a song with soulful undertones added by the hammond playing of Greg Barnes, which would happily grace any Elbow or Embrace album. On 18 they re-enforce their soulful credentials with a beautifully crafted and laid back ballad where you can hear the influences Gallacher picked up working with the guys from Turin Breaks.

The whole vibe of the album is a laid back affair even when the tempo is picked up like on the sublime Hey Politician and country tinged Bright eyes. Giving Hey Politician a run in the 'best track' stakes is the beautifully fragile Not Surprised. A song that is built on the simplicity of Gallacher's voice which exudes a particular purity and sweetness on this song while the melody acts only to cast a hypnotic spell. Beautiful.

The album closes on the sweeping Send Up A Flare which is infused with an epic pomposity that provides a classic ending to a mighty fine debut. While the songwriting and musicianship throughout is faultless, at times the production lets the whole thing down with the vocals sitting to far back in the mix and the electric guitars being to prominent but this is a minor quibble on what could be on many peoples 'album of the year' lists.

www.toytinsoldier.com

[][][][][] (5/5)

~

Proud Proud People: How To Be Humble

This is an EP or maybe it’s more of a mini album by Proud Proud People, from Sandbach, it’s released on Butter Bridge Records.

The overall feel is Richard Hawley meets English folk indie sound. We kick off with Razorblade,
an intriguing and punchy opener. They are at their best when the get near to Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian territory on Broken Bread with a dual vocal performance and they clearly deliver on the excellent title track How to be Humble.

The best thing about the band is the energy punctuated by the brass giving a nice cool sixties sound like Love. The worst thing, is the affected mock Ian Curtis meets Morrissey vocal on Midnight Oil and Locust which detracts and is only saved by rest of the band somewhat saving face. There are a few problems which a decent A&R man would be able to spot and organize. This would be a delicious indie folk 4 track EP and feels like a missed opportunity.

Overall this is a decent debut but there are still a few problems with consistency. It’s definitely worth buying but with more songs like How to be Humble and Broken Bread, Proud Proud People could be in with a decent shout.

www.myspace.com/proudproudpeople

[][][] (3/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 4 November 2010

therunningchelsea: The Moonstruck Confederate

Therunningchelsea is the rather strange name that Suffolk born and Newcastle based musician Tom Hollingworth chooses to release this album under. It’s something of a musical cooperative with Charlie Walsh on vocals, Rob and Ed Harringtion of Ajanta and poet Al Cummins all involved.

Musically, it’s an eclectic mish mash of sixties English psychedelia and acid, at times prog rock, at times alternative but never boring. It’s full of interesting ideas, challenging and unlike most wallpaper music around just now, makes you sit up and take notice. At times it feels like we’re in an art school movie soundtrack or background music to an art installation. It’s most certainly worth sticking with and after a few listens stand out tracks start to emerge. Songs like Requiem For Dorothy show a deft touch and on Spread Yo-Self Fatly there’s black humour and drama as well as the spirit of Sid Barrett, Can and Captain Beefheart.

Rise is a downbeat acoustic song that could grace any album by the biggest selling bands of the last ten years. The Moonstruck Confederate is never going to be a million seller but that’s not what it’s about. Sometimes self indulgence and breaking the formulaic approach can work. It’s about writing for yourself and not thinking your Gary Barlow. This album is a return to sanity and as far from Simon Cowell as one can possibly get.

Don’t go changing.

www.myspace.com/therunningchelsea

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Marmaduke Dando: Heathcliffian Surly

The best thing about singer songwriting balladeer Marmaduke Dando's debut is it’s really enjoyable to listen to because it’s different, original and interesting. How does someone so young have such an old fashioned voice? It’s almost of an another time and place. One of sepia photographs, of melodramatic climax before something sinister slaps us from romanticism back to an inevitable reality.

Heathcliffian Surly is lyrically and vocally honed from that old school that’s close to Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and Scott Walker but with a modern twist. From the opening track Odessa! to closing track The Last Embrace and all in between, there’s a peculiar freshness. On Life Can’t Get Any Better and the stand out ballad, This I Ask Of You, reminiscent of David Sylvian’s solo work merged with the lyrical sharpness of Nick Cave.

'If this is civilisation I want no part in it' croons young Marmaduke and his horror at the modern world may be well be his own undoing. My biggest worry about this album is despite the great quality of songs, I fear the world may not be ready for something as clever or quirky. Marmaduke Dando could’ve been on the Tube in the 80’s and then next week on a forty day UK tour supporting The Birthday Party, gaining a minor Top 40 entry with an explosive Top of the Pops performance pushing them into the top 20. In fact, if the single was the quirky Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song styled Give Me Detumescence they could have even have their very own Frankie and Relax controversy.


This album is worth buying for many reasons. The songs are well structured and the performances from the large supporting cast are first class. Along with the great artwork, the lyrics come in a fold out sheet and they are a remarkable literal treat.

A fantastic album.


www.marmadukedando.com

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 28 October 2010

Fools Paradise: Fools Paradise

Fools Paradise isn't a band but rather a musical project between several well known North East musicians and lyricist Irving Graham. Revered producer/songwriter/musician Frankie Gibbon is the man mainly responsible for the musical content, playing most of the instruments and co-writing all the tracks but the upbeat nature of the music is in stark contrast to the dark, personal and biographical nature of the lyrics. It is not evident if the process of laying himself bare has been a cathartic experience but given the intensity of the lyrical content we can only hope that Graham has been able to lay some ghosts to rest.

With vocal duties spilt between Gibbon, Daisy Flockhart and Al Harrington, the album is given texture and variety with Harrington and Gibbon's vocals sharing the same world weariness with an almost spoken delivery while the fragility of Flockhart's soulful voice works perfectly on Curtain Of Cover and Jigsaw.

The darker nature of this album is never far away with tracks like the Dire Straits-esque Little White Lies touching on themes of domestic abuse and denial. A read of the accompanying lyric booklet reveals the epic title track, Fools Paradise, as a confessional where you almost feel guilty for being allowed to glimpse the disturbing side of someones life. Despite the nature of the lyrics, this is not a gloom laden record. Don't get me wrong, I doubt the Samaritans will be using it for their next tv advert but the vibe is similar to that of an album by Pink Floyd or the afore mentioned Dire Straits. If you are not convinced then we do get a song of hope in the shape of the wonderful Sonshine. A fathers open letter to his son that is full of optimism and aspiration and is genuinely quite touching.

This album works on a couple of levels. You can simply just enjoy it as good music or delve deeper and uncover an insight into a troubled soul that looks like it may have finally found peace.


www.foolsparadise.mobi


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Tuesday, 19 October 2010

LZ7: Light

The Manchester pop hip hoppers have already made a stir off the back of their cover of the children's gospel song This Little Light for the charity Message Trust and this album follows the same musical template that has worked for the likes of The Black Eyed Peas with radio friendly dance pop for the masses. The polished electro beats of LZ7 are certainly catchy but with an abundance of acts producing almost identical dance pop, have these guys got what it takes to stand out?

If the single and album opener is the yard stick by which they wish to be measured, then the answer is no.
This Little Light is inoffensive enough but you could turn on any commercial radio station across the country and would be hard pushed to tell this apart from anything else on their playlist. If someone told me this was the new album from Aqua, Will.i.am or NDubz then I wouldn't argue with them. Ok, ok... Yes, I'm not their target audience and I dare say if I was 13 then this would be a constant on my ipod and I would dance my buns off at the school disco to them.

There are a few small gems that shine in the shape of Sold Out which is an instantly catchy slice of summer fueled pop that is easily the best thing on here while
Party Time and Four Points are undeniably fun pieces of kitch pop but then on the flip side you have the very ordinary Fall At Your Feet, Ditto, Superstar and The Greatest Day. These songs, and in indeed most of this album, could be by any number of bands that clog the charts as there is no originality or depth to the music. It just sounds like countless other acts out there. It is not that it is really bad, more that it is just not very good. That said, expect to see them in the charts very, very soon.

www.lz7.co.uk


[][][ (2.5/5)

~ Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Aaron Shanley: Let The Sun In

Lisburn singer songwriter Shanley is part of a new breed of musicians that the area is producing with effortless ease and this 8 track mini album shows him to be one of the best of the bunch. He takes his cue, as many of his counterparts do, from the other side of the Atlantic and fuses it with a pop sensibility much like fellow Northern Irish songwriters Bap Kennedy, Ben Glover, Andy White and Brian Houston do. The vibe of this album is mellow as are his breathy vocals, which are made all the warmer by the reverb laiden production.

Album opener Coming Down has a grandiose and somewhat epic feel to its intro before settling down to the sparse arrangement of the verse with resplendent plaintive vocals before rising again for the chorus with added lush harmonies giving extra texture and depth to what is a mighty fine song. The quality continues with the wistful Go Easy and the stunning title track Let The Sun In. The latter is quite beautiful and shows a songwriting talent far beyond his tender 20 years.

The ramshackle alt-country of Ana Came Along and Sarah Rose shows another string to his bow as he takes the tempo up but it is without a doubt on the melancholy balladry of the rest of the album that he truly shines as A Little Rain and Today I shows. This is a supremely self assured debut from a name that is already at the top of the 'one to watch' lists of those in the know.

www.myspace.com/aaronshanley

[][][][][ (4.5/5)

~ Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Kitty The Lion: Gutted/Split Ends (single)

Being hailed as the great white hope of Scottish music along side Pearl and the Puppets, Kitty The Lion's music has quite a bit in common with the afore mentioned. Both make generic folk pop and both sing in exaggerated accents, except Kitty front woman Anna Meldrum lays on the Scottish accent to such an extent that it becomes comical rather than quirky. Vocals aside, their brand of folk is catchy enough if hardly memorable. I have seen the band live on several occasions mainly due to the fact that the hugely talented Sorren MacLean is part of the band and this has perhaps made my expectations higher than they should have been but Kitty The Lion does him a disservice both live and on the two tracks featured on this single.

They may be getting certain corners of the Scottish media hot under the collar but with fellow Scottish acts like Maeve O'Boyle, Iain Morrison, Martin & James and Second Hand Marching Band producing music that outshines this at every turn, I'm baffled as to why.

www.myspace.com/kittythelion

~ Friday, 8 October 2010

Cowboy Junkies: Renmin Park - The Nomad Series - Volume 1

Renmin Park is a bit of a departure from the Cowboy Junkies normal output. I suppose you could almost call it a concept album. Inspired by Cowboy's mainstay Michael Timmin and his family's 3 month stay in China, it is the first of four planned release over the next 18 mths under the banner of 'The Nomad Series'. Based around characters Timmin encountered in the small Chinese city of Jingjiang on the Yangtze river, he describes Renmin Park as 'a fictional love story about two people whose two worlds will forever keep them apart'. The songs are a mix of sounds he collected on portable recording devices during his travels, character based original compositions and a couple of covers of songs by two of China's biggest rock stars.

We are enticed into into the atmosphere of China with a broad spectrum of samples ranging from a military brass band to children playing and traditional singing to the cacophony of traffic that fills the streets before giving way to the sparse and beautiful title track, where we find ourselves in familiar Cowboy's territory. For a band that are know for their bleak soundtracks,
Sir Francis Bacon At The Net and the cover of Zuoxiao Zuzhou's I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side sees them darker than I've ever heard them before. The latter is strangely beguiling while the former left me bemused by the unintelligible lyrics and feedback laden backing.

The tempo heads upbeat with the wonderful (You Got To Get) A Good Heart that sound uncannily like something you would expect to here from Beck while Cicadas uses a sample of the little insects to great effect for this atmospheric ramble that metamorphosis into a different beast towards the end of the song with a decidedly funky twist.
A Walk In The Park is perhaps the one track that leaves the listener no way into it, not because the lyrics are sung in Chinese but because of the deeply unpleasant nature of the singers voice. A truly, truly awful song.

I've been a fan of the Cowboy Junkies for more years than I care to remember and this for me is their most disappointing album to date as the negatives on Renmin Park strongly outweigh the positives. If you want an introduction to the band at their finest then buy The Trinity Session and leave this album well alone.

www.cowboyjunkies.com

[][] (2/5)

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Matt Henshaw: Can't Hold Back (ep)

Henshaw is definitely a soul boy at heart and you imagine he must own a fine record collection judging by the various samples that he uses here. The ep is a collaboration with hip hop narrator ReggiiMental and moves into territory that will be familiar to fans of Mike Skinner, Just Jack and Plan B with a mix of Henshaw's bluesy pop vocals and ReggiiMental's machine gun spoken approach.

The title track and The Deepest Cellar play the soul card to great effect and just when you think you've got the measure of this record along comes the reggae dub of Far Away and Adidas Trainers, forcing a rethink. Given all the technology and samples used on this ep, it is the acoustic bonus track Naughty Girls that really shines and is refreshingly uncluttered.

All the tracks on here, except Naughty Girl, appeared previously on ReggiiMental's album The Deepest Cellar which was released in May of this year, so why exactly they felt the need to release this ep is best known to them.

www.matthenshaw.com

~ Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Drop: Looking To The Sky (single)

London based reggae collective The Drop release this, their debut single, having already made some waves on the festival circuit sharing a stage with the brilliant Toots and the Maytals and Dreadzone, so it will come as no surprise that The Drop's sound has definitely been influenced by the likes of Toots but for Looking To The Sky they have adopted a far more earthy roots dub sound compared to some of their other songs, but I have to admit I prefer this harder sound and find it instantly infectious with front man Dandelion's vocals the perfect foil for the hypnotic beat.

Looking To The Sky
is an impressive debut and I'll definitely be looking out for an album in the near future.

www.myspace.com/thedropmusic

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CrestFallen: Cities On The Edge Of Forever (ep)

Southampton metalcore outfit CrestFallen will keep the faithful happy with this 6 track ep yet for those new to the band they may find it all a bit too predictable. Don't get me wrong, the relentless double kick of the bass drum and ferocious guitar riffs will have even the most cynical head banging but like countless other bands that go for the fast/slow tempo changes, CrestFallen trod a well worn path. Many moons ago I was sent along to review a Napalm Death gig. I remember being intoxified by the energy of the music yet totally bemused by the growl that passed for vocals. The vocals almost seemed like anti music and this is how I find myself feeling about CrestFallen.

COTEOF gets underway with the ambient sampled monologue of The Truth Will Set You Free which seems like a pointless exercise compared to what follows with Elysium Plateau, an old skool riff fest of the kind beloved by Megadeath while Behold A Pale Horse is a far darker and harder affair and easily one of the better track of the six on offer.
Both The Essence and Disclosure follow the afore mentioned fast/slow principle so beloved of this genre. While they are not bad songs, they are not very imaginative or original. The best is saved for last in the shape of The Tether Incident with its mix of fantastic drumming, soaring guitars and predominately clean vocals that cut through to provide texture and meaning to the song.

Perhaps I'm not the best person to review this ep but I am a fan of good music in whatever form it comes and CrestFallen certainly have their appeal but call me old fashioned, I actually like it when you can hear what the singer is singing.

www.myspace.com/crestfallenonline


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Ethan Ash: No Early Nights (ep)

I'm not sure about Ethan Ash. In his press release it mentions that he has recently shared the stage with Newton Faulkner and Nick Harper but any comparisons on this 4 track ep with the afore mentioned would be far wide of the mark. He writes summery folk pop that is pleasant rather than memorable or attention grabbing. Vocally his voice is not strong enough for the vocal gymnastics he tries to pull off, especially on Tried To Get Rid Of Me.

So, like I said, I'm not sure about him. I can see songs like Dawning and
Hushed Quiet Silence perhaps appealing to Jack Johnson fans but when you compare him to artist who are ploughing a similar furrow like Foy Vance and Boo Hewerdine, he is outshone at every turn. At just 22 he has time on his side but as No Early Nights shows, he is far from the finished article.

www.myspace.com/ethanashmusic

~

Phantom Limb: Live In Bristol

With a name like Phantom Limb you could be forgiven for expecting a band bedecked in denim and leather but cast those pre-conceptions aside. The Bristol outfit's sound is in fact more of a soulful Americana that is crowned by the glorious voice of Yolanda Quartey and as this live album shows, they are a very special band indeed.

The 8 tracks featured here are gathered together from their self titled debut album, old releases and some new material and the one thing that strikes you when you listen to this album is why these guys are not shifting the same amount of records as fellow Bristolians Massive Attack.

Album opener
Run catches your attention straight away with Quartey's breathy vocals and the sparse arrangement working in unison to create an ethereal atmosphere that the likes of Steely Dan do so well. The vibe of the whole album is mellow and it is not difficult to vividly imagine the audience sat spellbound as this recording transports you there every time you close your eyes.

It is difficult to pick out a particular track for praise as there is no one highlight. The whole album is a highlight. I can't pay this recording any bigger complement than saying it makes me want to go and see them live at the soonest possible opportunity.

www.phantomlimbmusic.com

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Friday, 1 October 2010

Franz Nicolay: Luck and Courage - Album of the Month - October 2010

Nicolay will be known to most as a former member of The Hold Steady and World/Inferno Friendship Society but this is not his first foray into the limelight as a solo artist. 2009's Major General was a well received debut with other subsequent low profile releases showing Nicolay's willingness to diversify and experiment with his sound. That experimentation has served him well as Luck and Courage is a wonderful record that blends his punk sensibilities with that of an articulate troubadour.

If you are expecting a record that sound like any of his previous bands then you will be disappointed. Luck and Courage is a masterclass in instrumentation, arrangement and poetic musings that his previous incarnations have been unable to capture. This is Nicolay's Sgt Pepper.

His skills as a storyteller is evident from the very first track, Felix & Adelita. His lyrics of forlorn love are framed by a hypnotic brushed snare, mellow organ underpinning the song throughout, with the tight sound of the banjo emphasising the chord changes. The whole premise of this album is based around the afore mentioned Felix & Adelita and tracks where their life, love and destiny takes them.

This is an album that is packed with songs of real beauty. This Is Not A Pipe, Z For Zachariah and Job 35:10 are all simply stunning and layered with melancholy as we are regaled with stories from Nicolay's fertile world of colourful characters and strange places. It is however on The Last Words Of Gene Autry that he reaches his pinnacle. This piano driven ballad is the perfect backdrop for his plaintive yet expressionate voice.

Luck and Courage is a work of grand proportions that deserves to be heard. The production of Willie Nelson and Franz Ferdinand producer Jim Keller is suitably understated with the assorted cast of musicians all carrying off their roles with aplomb. I genuinely have not been able to stop listening to this album and its destiny to become a classic in my book is already confirmed.

www.franznicolay.com


[][][][][] (5/5)

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The Good The Bad: From 001 To 017

Danish instrumental trio The Good The Bad seem to be getting name checked everywhere you look at the moment with The Killers and MC5's both coming out as fans. The guys play sub 3 minute surf grunge tunes that also touches on everything from flamenco to punk and mariachi to rock. Imagine if Duane Eddy joined the Hives and they re-recorded the sound track to a Quentin Tarantino remake of 'Once upon a time in Mexico' and you get some idea of the sound these guys make... or not.

This album has been floating around for sometime, having first heard it in 2007 as an import, but it is just getting its full UK release now off the back of an explosive show at this years SXSW extravaganza. Judging from the album cover it is not only the band's music that is testosterone fueled. A bevy of naked beauties bedeck the cover in poses that leaves nothing to the imagination and the band carry this theme on with their new video which also stars a naked young lady having 'relations' with an electric guitar. The spirit of rock 'n' roll is alive and well.
I wonder if these guys own a Ten Years After album!

I never quite understood the need for song names on all instrumental albums and it looks like these guys share my point of view as the 17 tracks are simply listed as 001 to 017. Genius if you ask me. Despite the number of tracks contained on here, it is still only 32 mins long which is probably the right length given the limitation and repetitive nature of this album. I did enjoy this album but you do get the feeling that The Good The Bad really come into their own in a live environment. If you are looking for an album to stick on when you and your mates are getting ready for a night out, then this will surely get you in the mood. Enjoy this album for what it is... a record that will put a smile on your face. With From 018 to 033 already available on import, you will be hearing a lot more of them over the coming year.

www.thegood-thebad.com


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Thursday, 30 September 2010

Bada Badoo: Conceptual Love (Single)

When Bada Badoo appeared on this years X Factor, Simon Cowell was heard to say 'this is a joke' when Bada walked on stage. Perhaps it was a joke as he played the geek to perfection, claiming that he wanted to see if he really could sing. He can indeed sing and left the assembled judges open mouthed. I personally detest the X Factor and its talentless freaks as they parade their wares for a crack at obscurity all the while pouring millions of pounds into Mr Cowell's bank account. So is Bada just another one of these sad deluded puppet laid bare for our voyeuristic entertainment? Well perhaps not as this guy really can sing.

Conceptual Love is a chilled slice of radio friendly R'n'B with some serious pop overtones, and a video that has its tongue firmly in its cheek, that provides the perfect vehicle for Bada's soulful and pure voice, and you know what.... he may just have a hit on his hands. There is a place in UK music at the moment for a truly great soul voice and if he can live up to the early promise of this single, then he will certainly have a career that lasts a lot longer than that of Leon Jackson, Shayne Ward or Steve Brookstein.

www.badabadoo.let-i-innovate.com

~ Wednesday, 29 September 2010

50ft Woman: Ménage á Trois (ep)

London 5 piece 50ft Woman make punky pop that sounds like they have been influenced by the B52's in the same way No Doubt had. Fronted by the demure Minki, a lady with high heels that could induce vertigo, the band showcase their sleazy sound on this 3 track ep.

Pick of the bunch is the first track,
(Strictly) Only Swinging. A tale of no strings sex and suburban shenanigans behind closed doors that plays to a soundtrack that brings to mind The Damned and the previously mentioned B52's. Psychic Hygiene probably works better live but here it sounds formulaic and uninspiring, but they get back on track with You're In Love With Love (But You Ain't in Love With Me) which has a chorus that sounds a lot like the Psychedelic Furs Pretty In Pink and is a damn fine piece of noizy pop.

There is enough here to suggest that Minki and the lads are worth keeping an eye on. Ménage á Trois is released on the 1st November.

www.50ftwoman.com

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I, Ludicrous: Clerking 'Til I Die (single)

Clerking 'Til I Die sees I, Ludicrous back to their ironic best with a self deprecating tale of the fame hungry and those content with their lot. The comparisons to The Fall will never go away but unlike the dour faced ramblings of Mark E Smith, I, Ludicrous have no illusions of their own self importance. As usual humour is their best weapon.

The track itself is a slow chugging piece of indieness that brings to mind The Pixies with Will Hung's semi spoken vocal delivery showing no hint of the humour in the lyrics until the very end of the song. If you have not checked out the band before, then do yourself a favour and discover one of the great undiscovered bands of the last 25 years.

www.iludicrous.co.uk

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Michael Lee: Face Forward

Michael Lee is a singer songwriter from Buckinghamshire who cites, among his influences, Sting. That aside I still tried hard to give it a good listen despite my fears at seeing yet another English middle class troubadour on the cover, with blow dried hair and ubiquitous raincoat stare longingly at a cowpat just off in the distance. My notebook said egregious, remarkably bad. But I listened 4 times to see if I could be positive.

Lose the drummer, he’s too busy. Oh sorry you’re the drummer. And the fancy fretwork from the guitarist is getting in the way, oh sorry that’s you too. You want to show off don’t you? Michael Lee is clearly a Jack of all trades but a master of none. Only Jimi Hendrix and Prince could truly play at the level required to convince as multi instrumentalists and sorry Michael, this just sounds like a huge vanity project.

On Tired, a Rufus Wainwright style song where Lee keeps it simple with a nice string arrangement, he is actually quite good. Mystery of Life also shows that less is more.

Like most men his age who’ve probably tried for years in previous groups to make it, Michael Lee should be applauded for still trying but for me this is just poor. This is what happens when musicians forget to listen to records and prefer to read guitar magazines. Someone should’ve said, listen to some records. Listen to structure, start with 60’s garage, listen to Motown records some Northern Soul, listen to some punk records. Everything is about structure, melody and excitement and all with the aim of adding to the song. Sadly Face Forward does none of this.


www.michaellee.co.uk

[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 23 September 2010

InMe: Phoenix - The Best Of InMe

This is a 'best of compilation' by English rock band InMe, from Brentwood, Essex. My first impression was why aren’t they massive by now? I was immediately won over despite never having heard them before. This album should be viewed less as a best of and more of an introduction to the band to win over new converts and after hearing Phoenix, they’ve a new fan in me.

Maybe the reason why they aren’t household names could be down to marketing. They shouldn’t be chasing the mainstream, just stick to the alternative indie scene and eventually the mainstream will, like they did with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, wake up and smell the coffee.

The songs sound fresh and current; it’s a cornucopia of rifferamma and great drumming but should be listened to in the context of alternative indie rock bands like Biffy Clyro and Pendulum and not poppier bands like Feeder. The opener Safe in a Room is heavy but melodic. We venture into the heavy rock spectrum with loads of intricacy and enough fills and riffs to keep the Kerrang fans happy but also, and more importantly enough angst, melancholy and indie sensibility which will please the NME fans. Myths and Photographs rocks out majestically. Bury Me Deep Beneath Your Skin, All Terrain Vehicle and Cracking the Whip sound like InMe could be massive in the States.

Who will love this? Fans of Nickelback, Limp Bizkit, Bush, Staind, Pendulum and Baroness. Let’s hope that Phoenix; The Best of InMe helps relaunch them to their rightful berth and they rise from the flames. Sorry I promised myself I wouldn’t be that predictable with the phoenix from the flames analogy but there you go.


www.inmeofficial.co.uk

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

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Po' Girl: Follow Your Bliss - Album of the Month - September 2010

Follow Your Bliss is the 5th studio album from the much venerated Canadian roots band Po' Girl and is packed with songs of love, longing and desire that swing from Americana to jazz and folk to pop with all the usual flair that you have came to expect from this talented four peice. From the very first moment you put this record on you know that you are in for something special. Opener Kathy is the perfect vehicle for the wonderful vocals of Allison Russell, resplendent in its breathy dusky tones, and shows a progression in the bands sound from last album Deer in the Night which is carried on through out the other 13 tracks contained here.

The country blues of
When We Are Love is a soulful and joyous affair brought to life by the dobro of Benny Sidelinger and the guitar of Dan Abu Absi. A great deal of the credit for the likability of this album must go to the outstanding production of Zack Goheen who has provided a warmth to the new found maturity of the bands songwriting. Highlights are many. From the accordion and brass driven title track to the Parisian zydeco of Maudite Guerre and the understated beauty of Go Easy to the haunting Benediction, this is an album that delivers constantly with each listen drawing you in further.

There are many other bands playing similar stuff out there but few manage to capture the emotion and joy that Po'Girl have etched into their soul. This is a great record that the band may find hard to better.


www.pogirl.net

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Wednesday, 22 September 2010

aM: Belong To The Galaxy

Japanese two piece aM make electronic soundscapes laced with rock sensibilities as this all instrumental album shows. The duo of Kodai and Miyuki have been regular faces on the Japanese electro rock scene with the band Supercar, Kodai being drummer in the band and Miyuki being their producer. The duo claim they wanted to create a sound they describe as 'the imagination of the galaxy'. I'm not sure what that means but it is a million miles away from the twee pop of Supercar.

The sound is at time brutal with an industrial approach to the production which only serves to make the ferocity of their songs all the more intense. This ain't no subtle album. Opener I've God Them tricks you with it's spiraling arpeggiator before erupting into a mash of sonic feedback with layered synths and guitars. If Mogwai went down the electro route you kind of feel they would sound something like this.

The rest of the album follows the same pattern of gentle intros followed by all out mayhem. There is a distinct air of predictability to the whole proceedings which means the
repetitiveness of the songs does become tiresome as the near 18 min long final track The Universe Is Alive (One Huge Sinewave) pays testament to. I understand what the guys are trying to do and that the repetitiveness is part of that but it is difficult to see who this album will appeal to or how they will be able to develop their sound for the future. More of a curious oddity than a post rock masterpiece.

No Website available

[][][ (2.5/5)

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Jon Thorne & Danny Thomson: Watching The Well

Double bassist Jon Thorne has always pushed the musical boundaries especially with his band Lamb and with the musicians who make him their bassist of choice, whether that be Robert Fripp or Badly Drawn Boy. Much admired by both musicians and music fans for his undeniable skill, it is easy to ignore the fact that he is also an amazing composer. This whole album was inspired by his hero and mentor the legendary folk bassist Danny Thomson and serves as a vehicle for Thomson's virtuoso playing.

Watching The Well is an all instrumental suite written for double bass and orchestra with some interesting choral flourishes giving a haunting and sometimes medieval feel to proceedings. The 12 parts/tracks have been split into three movements, The Light That Guides, The Generous Heart and The Tie That Binds and loops seamlessly from track to track. The album was initially conceived as a performance piece commissioned for the Manchester Jazz Festival and this is evident in the structure and feel of the whole record. While Thompson is undoubtedly the star of the show, Thorne has brought together a formidable supporting cast in the shape of jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum but it is Thorne's compositions that shine brightest.

From the opening track
The Light That Guides you are transported to a sound scape of atmosphere and surrealism that is deeply relaxing and ethereal. With the length of tracks ranging from 40 seconds to over 7 minutes, this is a record that is meant to be listened to as a whole and certainly works best from that perspective. The instrumentation is faultless throughout with Victoria being perhaps the best track to showcase Thompson's awesome bass skills.

Thorne's willingness to embrace both modern technology and beautiful acoustic instruments like the harp, cello and piano make this a fascinating musical journey. You won't walk away from this album humming any of the tunes but you will be richly rewarded by the experience.

www.myspace.com/jonthornesoedipuscomplex


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Thursday, 16 September 2010

Paul Heaton: Acid Country

Paul Heaton will be best know to most as the former front man with the Beautiful South and the Housemartins but this is not his first foray as a solo artist with the album Fat Chance released under the name of Biscuit Boy and 2008's self titled release The Cross Eyed Rambler. Both these albums failed to capture the public imagination, so will his new album Acid Country fare any better?

The songs on here will appeal far more to fans of the Beautiful South than any Housematins aficionados. It is pop with a bit of Americana and folk thrown into the mix. Heaton's voice is as distinctive as ever and his ability to write witty, cutting and intelligent lyrics is stronger than ever and it is this that makes this album for me. This is a record that Heaton sounds like he enjoyed making and it has been some time since that could be said.


There is a feel to this record that hankers for times past. Opener The Old Radio reads like a snippet from an American history book and It's A Young Man's Game laments to what used to be 'Up North'. The vocal interaction with Ruth Skipper on Even A Palm Tree is biting, perhaps even auto biographic, and shows Heaton to be at the top of his lyrical game. On Welcome To The South he fires a condescending shot across the bow of the South of England and all its ideal and personality sapping negativity with all the jollity of George Formby. There is a theme developing here.

If you are looking for a life affirming and uplifting album then this is not the record for you. Then again even at his most commercial days with Beautiful South, Heaton was never one for the happy song. His trademark songs, of sorts, of marital strife are here in force with the swooning This House being the pick of the bunch. When he sings 'This house needs a cat to kick instead of poor old me' you know you are in reassuringly familiar downbeat territory.

The standout track for my money is the epic title track Acid Country which is Heaton's take on modern Britain, our preconceptions and stereotypes all backed with a constantly changing soundtrack ranging from Americana to Eastern European folk to electronica and back again.

This album is grower that requires a few listens before it's gloomy charms are unveiled and having the accompanying lyric booklet on hand will certainly help. Heaton proves he has all the abilities to challenge Morrissey for Britain's most cherished miserable old bugger. Don't expect to hear this on the radio or reams of column inches in the national press as it is unlikely to happen. Pity, as Heaton needs to be cherished for the bard that he is.

www.paulheatonmusic.co.uk

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Snakes: Sometime Soon

If subtle country rock with a British twist is your bag, then The Snakes Sometime Soon is the must buy album of this or any other week. Maybe it’s just been a bad week at The Music Critic HQ but when this album was slipped under the door it made me smile and feel happy. It’s a refreshing X Factor-Simon Cowell- music industry-free kind of album. It’s not rocket science, get together with some mates and make an album, an album with a distinctive, live, natural feel which adds to the charm.

The Snakes have listened to decent records. You can hear the obvious influences, post Exile On Main Street Stones and The Flying Burrito Brothers (if they hailed from the Thames Delta), Dylan and The Band. Though we also verge off into Captain Beefheart and Jon Spencer territory with Refrigerator Blues and Jesus in a Box, on Tin Foil Town we would excite fans of Steve Earle.

The stand out tracks are Promised Land and Come My Way and both could be hit singles. On Promised Land, we are in an America the world dreams of; the open road, hot deserts, Arizona, an orange sunset, the ghost of Gram Parsons all around, a full tank of petrol and hope. The optimism continues on Come My Way with more spacey, big and gloriously choruses, unapologetic nods to Tom Petty at his best.

Last week the Mercury Music prize was awarded to someone whose name I’ve forgotten already. The Snakes should be nominated for next years prize right now. In fact let’s all just buy it. It’s released on Red Eye Music on September 27 2010. It would’ve been a perfect five apart from the track Cumberland Breeze, a shame it was out of place.

www.the-snakes.com

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

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Love Deuce: It Takes Two

It Takes Two is the new album from Bedford’s, in their words, pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music act Love Deuce. As a grumpy old musical snob I’m hardly the biggest authority on pop Europop dance trance Eurodance acts. I know it’s not Nick Drake or Nirvana or The Ramones but it’s not meant to be. It’s what the kids are into.

When pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music comes on the radio after the football on a Saturday night and the young people are getting ready to go out, this is what they’re all listening to. I usually switch on Radio 4. Surprisingly, I do this job because I do know about music, particularly pop and this is a good debut album full of great pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music. There, surprised you all.

They’re doing their thing, it sounds current, fresh and upbeat with loads of catchy pop hooks and the ones that stuck out for me were I Never Loved You Anyway, Miss Dangerous and Satisfied. There’s some good pop writing clearly evident on the stand out track Hero. I can imagine them going down a storm in Europe where the pop aspect to dance music is much stronger. There are also some nice vocal performances throughout, reminiscent at times of Madonna, no bad thing at all.

It’s not something naturally aimed at my demographic but I appreciate any artists who do their own thing and try to make things happen. So if this old grump is relatively impressed by it, then just think what the kids will think? If the band are reading, my 13 year-old niece has a birthday coming up and I’m sure her and her pals will love it. Is it ok to give her the promo for a pressie?


www.lovedeuce.com

[][][][ (3.5/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

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