Lucky Bones: Together We Are All Alone

Dubliner Eamonn O’Connor is the brains behind Lucky Bones and the de-facto songwriter of the band. I came to this album not knowing much about them and reviewed it with a generous sense of anticipation in discovering genius, brilliance or diversity.

However, what I got from the first six songs with one exception, the excellent
Frank Sinatra who lets face it is always great, was mediocrity, as represented in the title track Together We Are All Alone, stereotypical arrangements as in Toward The Setting Sun and an ear for a bland chorus in the Costello/Psychedelic Furs influenced Longshot. Stand So Tall is more interesting but only if you like Al Stewart but Heavy Load does have a somewhat enjoyable melancholy that grows on you.

Then came track seven and what appears to be a different album.
Summer Nights Eruption goes all electro like Eno and the Edge and gives the album a sense of fresh perspective. Magnificent Mistake is beautiful, authentic Irish tinged Americana and leads on to contender for best song on the album Unbelieving Eyes, a tale of injustice and one arguably, that is finally sung with conviction. This track alone shows signs of greatness and of lyrical depth which is alas missing from much of the first half of the album. Commercial Presentation carries on this optimism for brilliance and is my favourite track, being a million miles away from the homogeny of the title track. Final track Alice is wonderful, showing signs and influence of fellow Irish band Villagers.

Many of the songs on the first half of this record could be O'Connor's most heartfelt feelings but I review this first and foremost as a critic, a consumer and most importantly, a first time listener. It could be said that this album would maybe be better served repackaged as a seven track EP, as many of the first half songs arguably wouldn’t travel well outside of Ireland. However there is genius, brilliance and diversity in here, it just needs the fat cut away to get to the bones.

www.luckybones.com

[][][] (3/5)

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan

~ Monday, 28 February 2011

De Staat: Machinery

Do you remember King Kurt? Remember watching the psycho billies slam dancing at your local student union? Well this much maligned minor sub-culture would have raved about this new album from Dutch band De Staat if they only heard the first track Ah, I See. However, this band are not a one trick pony, eclecticism is the order of the day. A musical force of nature that combines sweeping industrial soundscapes, 1950s style cinematic grooves and Led Zepp style riffing, grooving over Chilli Pepper funk would have soon made a psycho billies quiff wilt.

But hey this is 2011 and there is no time (apparently) for such regimented sub-culture snobbery. This melting pot of mayhem can be exemplified in the Flying Lizards/Devo stylee of new single Sweatshop or the sweeping 50s delivery of I’ll Never Marry You. There is even time for an American army marching rap in Old Macdonald Don’t Have No Farm No More and some pseudo ska on the track Psycho Psycho.

Arguably, there are some 80s style dodgy moments in Tumbling Down which to me sounds like an Art of Noise B-side and Keep Me Home sounds like a Queen album track and not one on the greatest hits. The industrial tones do dominate this album but don’t let that put you off; this is no downbeat grey machine even if the final track Back to the Grind tries its best to do so.

The best song on the album is undoubtedly the poorly titled I’m A Rat which has a great backbeat, even better riffs and a stinging falsetto. It is also the most commercial/danceable track here and one that with the right airplay could break this band in the good old USA. Get some girls in the video chaps, it's sure to work. Destination Zulu Land it isn’t but that’s no bad thing.

www.destaat.net

[][][] (3/5)

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan

~ Friday, 25 February 2011

Trichotomy: The Gentle War

The Gentle War is the fourth album from Australia’s finest contemporary jazz trio, Trichotomy. It’s a bright, entertaining and fun album with fantastic songs, imaginative arrangements and all from just piano, drums and double bass.

We start very brightly with Chase and a first solo for bassist Pat Marchisella. The song itself evokes the vibe and feel of Lalo Schifrin and Dave Brubeck jamming. It returns to the infectious hook of main man Sean Foran’s piano. Then things pick up the pace and we move seamlessly into the excellent Wrestle.

On Sync it’s drummer John Parker’s chance to shine with a dexterity and quickness of hand but also an excellent ear for light and shade. There’s a constant changing of motif and tempo but their musicianship and fluency makes it seem effortless. The first section on Cute, before it treads into more dramatic but still entertaining territory, is brilliant. This, along with many sections of this album, could be the incidental music of my namesake’s show Charlie Brown.

A minor detail and of course only my opinion but I felt it was somewhat out of place and self indulgent for such a positive album like The Gentle War to go out with the 7 mins and 19 secs of the melancholic Not According To Plan. Though excellently executed, I would’ve moved this song to the middle and taken either Chase or Wrestle from the opening, to close out the album in a more upbeat way.

This is a bright, tight, contemporary sounding album. One that should thrill current fans and definitely endear legions of new ones. I’d love to hear them on a cool contemporary film soundtrack, their ability to switch tempo and groove and their inventiveness would be a perfect fit.

www.trichotomymusic.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 24 February 2011

Kiria: Let Me In (single)

Let Me In is the third single to be lifted from Kiria's debut album Radio and her twee pseudo punk folk is nothing new but it does fill a void in the musical landscape that fits somewhere between Lily Allen and Katy Perry. For those of us old enough to remember Wendy James and Transvision Vamp or the glorious one hit wonders The Primitives then Let Me In and especially the b side Jelly Bean will rekindle distant memories.

I like Kiria. She's quirky and she doesn't take herself to seriously. If you like your music to be fun then Kiria is indeed worth checking out.

www.kiria.co.uk

~

The Wailin' Jennys: Bright Morning Stars

Bright Morning Stars is the 4th major release from the popular Canadian 3 piece female group The Wailin' Jennys. As with their previous releases it is the vocal interaction of Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse that is the star of the show. There is something comforting, warm and welcoming about what they do and they do it so, so well. All three girls have mesmerising voices and they write songs that allow those voices to take the lead with sympathetic arrangements playing the supporting role.

The pop overtones of album opener
Swing Low Sail High will guarantee them heavy radio rotation for what is as near perfect a song for summer as you will find. The girls sound oh so comfortable when they have a quality ballad to work with and All The Stars provides them with exactly that with rhythmic Ukulele playing of Justin Haynes blending perfectly with the strings of Richard Moody and Paul Mathew for a truly beguiling song. The acapella arrangement of the traditional Appalachian hymn Bright Morning Star is just stunning and a real hairs on the back of the neck moment. Previously recorded by Ruth Crawford Seeger, The Stanley Brothers and Sweet Arcade, the girls have added a version to the list that may become the benchmark. It is however Across The Sea that pips Bright Morning Star as the stand out track on this mighty fine album. This is a beautifully arranged song with the surprise inclusion of a flugel horn lending a haunted aspect to its atmosphere.

This is their most accomplished album to date with production to match and should surely secure the band as an act of international proportions, especially when they are capable of writing songs of the quality of Asleep At Last and You Are Here. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that musically they have evolved very little since 2004's 40 Days. I suppose if it ain't broken....

www.thewailinjennys.com

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

~ Friday, 18 February 2011

Moonshine Hooligans: Subterranean Secrets - Album of the Month No 3 - February 2011

What is it about February. I can't recall a month when we have received so many great albums, hence why we find ourselves with 3 albums of the month and this record is a truly worthwhile recipient of that title. Brothers Matthew and Stuart Watson should be stars. No doubt about it. Listening to Subterranean Secrets is like having the best bits of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Midlake, The Band, Bruce Springsteen and Crosby, Stills and Nash put into a blender and sprinkled with the Watson siblings considerable songwriting talent.

The 8 tracks on here are not lyric heavy, leaning more on the instrumentation to carry the melody with some inspired arrangements and fantastic playing. Personally, they had me hooked from the first few bars of the aptly titled Intro with its backward reverb, Mellotron and repetitive vocal harmonies. B for Banjo takes up where Intro leaves off and reveals itself to be a psychedelic work out which is driven along by the interaction of the banjo, guitar riffs and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes excellent fiddle playing.

The Knife Waltz just nudges it in the stand out track stakes. This is a song that I just keep having to hit the repeat button on. I imaging if the Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire did a single together it would sound just like this. The Country Line highlights another side of the bands sound with the stripped back arrangement of acoustic guitar, piano and vocals working in perfect harmony with Mark Goldstein's robust production. Really beautiful. The sound shifts again with the country square dance of Arcadia, and along with Moonshine Theme, shows they know how to put their tongue firmly in their cheeks.

Hold on a minute..... Reggae! Yes we did say Reggae. By now you should not be surprised by anything on this album but when Moonshine Dub kicks in, Reggae is what we have. Perhaps more of what Sting and The Police's idea of Reggae is but Reggae never the less and they pull it of majestically. What they cram into these 8 tracks is a breathtaking achievement. I've never felt more sure that a band deserves success more than these guys. Buy this album. Everyone needs to own a record like this.

www.myspace.com/moonshinehooligans

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

~ Thursday, 17 February 2011

Horowitz: Popkids Of The World Unite!

Popkids Of The World Unite! is a collection of the work of indie posters Horowitz from 2004 to 2010. It’s a great idea to collect all of their songs together on one, forgive the mainstream major terminology, anthology.

It’s great for the older indie C86 fans to hear a younger band who remind you of free tapes with the NME of The Pastels, Yo La Tengo, the Television Personalities and the Shop Assistants. Like most true indie bands they wear their indie badges on their lapels and satchels. There’s even creditable covers of Pavement’s I Love Perth and Jonathan Richman’s Government Center. Their version of the Ramone’s Judy is a Punk is like The 1912 Fruitgum Company walking into a Jesus and Mary Chain gig on Acid.

What’s most impressive about this collection is listening to the band gradually mature into decent indie popsters. On Super Snuggles we get close to The Weather Prophets, on Animal Soup and Sweetness I Could Die In Your Arms we could be listening to the BMX Bandits, by the time we get to The Drunks Are Writing Punk Songs you’re left wondering why they never had a major breakthrough. Probably because they didn’t want it, it’s not an indie requisite to have too much ruthless ambition.

A definite buy.

www.myspace.com/horowitzband

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Machine Gun Baby: For The One's We Knew (ep)

This Dublin 4 piece make a big sound for such a young band. They take their influences from much of the 'in' bands of the moment like Kings Of Leon, Midlake and Arcade Fire and I'm sure they are far to young to remember fellow Irish bands like Energy Orchard, Ghost Of An American Airman and The Fat Lady Sings but their sound reminds me so much of them.

The 5 tracks on this ep all have an anthemic quality to them with opener Judgement Day in particular destined to have stadiums swaying along if the guys fulfill their obvious potential. My Way and The Rescue come straight from U2's 'How to achieved world domination in music' manual. Brooding bass lines... check. Stuttering drums... check. Impassioned vocals... check. Effect laden guitar... check. Yep, they have it down to a fine art.

The ep closes with On The Fence (my favorite) and actually shows them to have a slight Americana edge to their sound that was not present in the previous 4 tracks.

MGB have something about them that makes them stand out. Their music is not wholly original but it is a new twist on something that is a proven seller. If they don't already have the A'n'R guys hassling them 24/7, it is only a matter of time.

The ep is available to download for free from the bands website.

www.mgbofficial.wordpress.com

~

Lotte Mullan: Would You Be So Kind (single)

We are big fans of Ms Mullan's debut album Plain Jane and this new single released on the 7th March is one of the albums best tracks. She has a distinctive voice and this gentle ballad allows her to shine. As with quite a few of her songs, this deals with relationships, lack of self belief and worth but it is the melody and arrangement that make this such a wonderful record. She has an undeniable likability to her and when a look at the charts will reward you with a slew of badly written dross, she comes across like a breath of fresh air. This should be on every major and regional radio stations playlist. It should be but we know it won't. Pity as this deserves to be a hit.

www.lottemullan.com

~ Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A.Human: Take Me Home/La Shark: I Know What You Did Last Summer (single)

The 7" single has been a much missed sight from the record emporiums in the last decade but there are still those labels that keep us vinyl junkies happy with releases like this one. Indie label So Darn So's signings A.Human and La Shark have teamed up for this double A side and both offer up something different but equally catchy. A.Human are perhaps the better know of the two and their offering, Take Me Home, is a piece of breezy pop that should be filling the airwaves this summer. It won't but it should.

La Shark are the more unconventional of the duo with I Know What You Did Last Summer sounding like Black Grape jamming with The Scissor Sisters over a crack pipe. This is a darkly humorous tale that plays with quirky beats and electronica for something quite unique.

I've seen the future and it's black, flat and has a hole in the middle. God bless labels like So Darn So and bands like A.Human and La Shark. Thanks for restoring my faith in music.

www.theahuman.com
www.lashark.com

~ Monday, 14 February 2011

Mark Ayling: Memories & Ghosts

I've no idea if Aberdeenshire based Mark Ayling is from London but he does a pretty mean Billy Bragg impersonation with his vocals. Musically he comes from the same punk attitude as Bragg and shares many of the same influences. The guitar is not his first instrument and his skills are basic to say the least but in that simplicity he plays with a child like enthusiasm that is rather infectious and entertaining.

The 8 tracks on this mini album suffer from being badly mixed with the vocals sitting to far behind the guitar to be audible and the reverb has been turned to 11 so he sounds like he is singing in a cave. This is a pity as with intriguing song titles like
The Ballad Of Logie Buchan and Tragically Shit I want to hear the words but I can't and with no lyrics to accompany the cd I'm still in the dark. Two songs do stand out however in the shape of Warzone and 3597. Both seem to have been mixed differently and the vocals are far more audible and 3597 in particular is damn fine tune.

I do actually like this record as Ayling has an ear for a good melody and I'm a sucker for the whole DIY punk ethos behind it all but it is hard to ignore its faults. Nothing that a good producer couldn't fix though.

www.markayling.net


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

~

To The Chase: When You Believed/The Return (single)

To the Chase are a 3-piece band from Hackney, East London. They are young and enthusiastic and they move along quite brightly. When You Believed is a quirky pop song that is a definite grower, close to the Arctic Monkeys. The Return is slightly overproduced with and closer inspection reveals that they are producing it too. The trouble with producing your own music so early on in your career is that everyone in the band wants their parts louder and this is noticeable in The Return.

They need someone else to deal with production duties and let them concentrate on writing and performing. They should concentrate more on the songs, keep playing live and hopefully by the time their forthcoming album, Listen Close is released, in June 2011they’ll go on to greater things.

A promising start.

wwwmyspace.com/tothechase

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Betty Soo: Heat Sin Water Skin - Album of the Month No2 - February 2011

Sometimes I despair of the music industry. Betty Soo should be a huge international superstar. Betty is a sharp, singer songwriter with incredible talent. She is from Austin, Texas, as cute as pie and is Korean American. It might not be too appetising to open a review of an artist’s work with a dig, in fact, a straight forward accusation of racism at the record industry but if anyone from the decaying empires is reading, this note’s for you. If Betty had blonde hair and blue eyes and the optional big bust she’d be fending off film offers and collaborations with Springsteen and Tom Petty from one of her many Grammy filled houses in Hollywood, the ubiquitous ranch in Montana, one in Tuscany, you know the score. She should be the new Stevie Nicks or Sheryl Crow. She has the songs, the ability and that innate skill to pitch songs perfectly between AOR/ what they call grit and groove- thanks to producer Gurl Morlix, a multi instrumentalist- to real heartbreaker ballads. My only hope is that she’s maybe too cool to want or believe in all that crap. To the songs, we open with Never Knew No Love a confident relaxed calling card. Just Another Lover melts you with its violin, lap steel and underlying the sweetness, a hard-edged smart lyric from the darker side of the feminine psyche. Don’t mess with this lady. On Never the Pretty Girl she almost breaks your heart with what surely is a hit single. A world wide hit, a perfect romcom soundtrack. On Who Knows and Get Clean we venture into what could be The Heartbreakers on a day off from TP.

Heat Sin Water Skin is a great delicious dollop of Americana, country, dirty electric guitar parts enhanced with delightfully subtle Hammond touches. Special mentions to Gene Elders on violin, Todd Wilson on keyboards and fantastic drumming by Mailman Dave in fact to everyone who worked on this album, I hope you get your reward but I fear you wont.

www.bettysoo.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Portico Quartet: Knee-deep In The North Sea

No matter what your view of jazz is, it is hard not to hold the Portico Quartet in admiration. The Mercury nominated band have re-issued their 2007 debut album Knee-deep In The North Sea with some tweaking from the legendary John Leckie. I have not heard the original release of the album, so this is new to me but I'm sure their adoring public will still want to get their hands on this updated deluxe edition. Apart from Mr Leckie being let loose on the mixing desk we also have the inclusion of 3 live tracks and it is indeed in a live setting that these guys have always shone.

The groups influences are many and varied as is their sound so it is no surprise this is released on Peter Gabriel's world music label, Real World. Listening to this record I found myself not even noticing where one track ended and another starts. Not because they sound alike but rather that the whole experience of listening to this record for me was one of immersion in its rich tapestry of sounds and getting lost in the skill and dexterity that each member processes as a musician. Jack Wyllie's soprano sax is sublime throughout as is Duncan Bellamy's quite wonderful drum and percussion work. Milo Fitzpatrick and Nick Mulvey are no less engaging.

The albums 10 studio tracks almost play like a soundtrack or a concept album, each one being tied in someway to the others, whether in the instrumentation or the feel. The title track is a beguiling piece of work that displays a restrained lethargy before waking up as if it has just had a nightmare before laying its head back down and dozing gently. Pompidue is another track that works on the senses and it the type of track that you feel the likes of Charlie Parker would be playing if he was still with us.

As I said before the band really come alive in a live setting so I was expecting something more from the 3 live tracks. Don't get me wrong they sound wonderful and are beautifully recorded and produced but they just don't sound live. The applause from the audience is the only thing that gives away the fact that these are live recording. Like there 2009 album Isla, this is a wonderful piece of work that offer far more to the listener that they may expect. The word jazz can have people running for the hills but just as pop music comes in many guises, so does jazz and these guys are standard bearers for a whole new generation.

www.porticoquartet.com

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

~ Friday, 11 February 2011

Andres Roots: Roundabout

You wouldn't think of Estonia as a hot bed of blues music but you would be surprised. Andres Roots has been playing all across the globe with his slide driven outfit Bullfrog Brown and they have gained a deserved reputation for their live shows. With the band taking a sabbatical he has taken the time to release this mighty fine collection of rootsy folk blues tunes with a host of guest contributors to keep him company.

The quirky nature of this record is quickly established with the opening track, the instrumental
Duck Soup which uses the one stringed Diddley Bow to brilliant effect, sounding like a Japanese blues fusion. On Lemon Days vocal duties are taken on by Eric Gebhardt, his voice having an interesting twang similar to Brian Ferry, and some inspired harmonica playing courtesy of Jantso Jokelin for what is a classy slice of slide blues.

A man who is no stranger to us here at Music Critic HQ, Dave Arcari, pops up on a couple of tracks to lend his distinctive rasping drawl. His presence on
Southern Sky is a telling one as you can imagine The Rolling Stones would have sounded like this if John Martyn was their front man. On an album of many highlights it is difficult to pick a standout but if pushed it would have to be the foot stomping Brothers Grim with the best vocal performance on the album coming from Bottleneck John and Roots showing his guitar skills off in fine style. You won't be able to keep your feet still.

This is a hugely entertaining album that has far more appeal than its blues credentials would suggest. The playing by all parties involved is faultless and the songs have a timeless quality that means this is a record you will want to come back to again and again.

www.myspace.com/andres roots

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

~

General Harrison: Make Me Beg (ep)

This is the debut ep from Salt Lake City trio General Harrison, a mix of pop rock and funky basslines with some great playing but the songs are just bland, bland, bland. Make Me Beg sounds like a home demo that should have stayed as just that. Despite repeated attempts to find something redeeming about this record, I just can't find anything positive to say about it. The bands front woman Kendra Harrison has a non descript voice perfectly suited for a career performing in hotel lounges and given the quality of the songs and lyrics, a gig at the Holiday Inn may be their next stop.

There is no cohesion to this ep as musical styles are thrown together as uncomfortable bed fellows with the sanitised goth rock of
Here I Stand and the sickly jaunty pop of Prairie Fire sounding like they belong on different records. In a world of acts like Pink, Katy Perry and The Gossip, General Harrison are a pale imitations and it is hard to see radio or the record buying public interested in what they have to offer.

www.generalharrison.com

~

The Lucky Strikes: Gabriel Forgive My 22 Sins

Sometimes albums come in to the Music Critic office that are incredibly difficult to get your head around because there’s so much going on. The third album from Southend-on-Sea’s The Lucky Strikes, a concept album about boxing, comes in to that category.

The boxer in question is Frankie Valentinez and the battle for his soul has a soundtrack that encapsulates folk, Americana, English pub rock, Arcade Fire, gospel, country, Dylan, Waterboys, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Springsteen, fiddles and banjos, an Irish sound, too many cooks and a broth waiting to be spoiled. Less is more. The Lucky Strikes hit the mark with a more subtle, less stressful approach on Gabriel, Codeine and We Are The Waves.

It’s clear that The Lucky Strikes will be compared to the commercial record company zeal for bands like Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver. Everyone has to have a beard, a banjo, a fiddle and a lap steel. The Lucky Strikes are at times guilty of treading in that territory but overall this is, once you get over the eclectic kitchen sink approach and listen a few times, an album with loads of charm.

On the track Man With The Golden Arm, the band are probably too young to have heard of a band called Captain America but the riff is completely the same as a track called God Bless Les Paul on their first EP. I’m old, I know these things. Trust me... George Harrison got done for less.

All this said, unlike Lenny, with Gabriel Forgive My 22 Sins, they could still be contenders.

www.theluckystrikes.com

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


Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Singular: The Sad Machine

The Singular make a wonderful sound. Space like and textural in its atmosphere, The Sad Machine shows the band to have shades of Muse and Radiohead, but perhaps without the rock tendencies of either of these bands, especially in the voice of front man James Pequignot who sounds uncannily like Matt Bellamy. The record edges on being epic with its sound but is let down somewhat by the DIY recording approach adopted in the making of the album, especially on the drum sound. Never the less this is an album packed full of brilliant pop songs that charm and worm their way into your affection.

The album opens on the Cocteau Twinsesque Airplane Food complete with effect laden guitar and earthy piano before giving way to the gloriously dark Patience As A Virtue that uses unexpected chord changes to mess with the listeners expectations. The straight forward poppiness of CMF shows the band also has an ear for the commercial and possible radio airplay.The one track that stands out for me is the piano driven The Traveling Salesman Problem. A song that if put in the hands of a good producer could easily break the band in Europe.

There is a simplicity to this record that appeals to me. It dark in both lyrics and music. They have managed to fuse different recognisable influences into something, that while familiar is fresh and innovative.

www.penguinnoises.com

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

~ Monday, 7 February 2011

Josh Bray: Whisky & Wool - Album of the Month - February 2011

Devon born troubadour Bray treads a familiar path with his debut long player. The Nick Drake influences just can't be ignored but Bray shares more in common with Boo Hewerdine and Ray Lamontagne with his affected Americana tinged folk and proves he is more than capable of holding his own. As a self confessed metal head in his youth, Bray's sound could not be any further removed from that genre. The warmth of the production is all enveloping as the acoustic based songs cast a hypnotic spell that had me happy to sit, head back, eyes closed and just wallow in its beauty. He is also in possession of a voice with a distinct tone which is coupled with refreshingly perfect diction.

Album opener The River Song is a meandering slice of Americana that can't help but bring comparisons with Ray Lamontagne in both its feel and Brays vocal delivery. This is no bad thing but those comparisons are soon dispelled with the arrival of Rise. A beautifully structured song that really frees Brays voice to show its full potential. The previously mentioned Nick Drake influence is nowhere more apparent as on Bigger Than The Both Of Us. Bray uses an open tuning to full effect on this track to give the guitar picking a rhythmical feel while his voice and the overlaid strings provide the melody.

This is a mighty fine album from start to finish but there are a few tracks that really do stand out. Hard Living has a slightly dirtier sound than anything else on the record and really is a seriously brilliant song in the mould of The Kevin McDermott Orchestra. Indian Gin is another song that touches on his rockier side and is destined to become part of my soundtrack for the forthcoming summer months (or possibly weeks given the British summer).

I seriously like this album. It has a vibe that works. From the songwriting to the arrangements and the playing to the production it is a triumph. I will be amazed if this is not all over radio 2 and Bray is not a star by this time next year. For my money it is the best album I've heard so far this year.

www.joshbray.co.uk


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

~

Jim Sullivan: U.F.O

If you're a vinyl junkie then there are some records that come with a certain amount of mysticism and folklore. U.F.O is such a record. Having long been talked about in reverence by record collectors and conspiracy theorists, this is an obscure piece of work from an artist that few people will have heard of but it is a truly wonderful and majestic record. It is over 35 years since Sullivan disappeared. His VW bug was found abandoned near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, his motel room untouched. Some say he got lost in the desert. Others think he fell foul of a local family with alleged mafia ties and some even claim he was abducted by aliens. The answer is that we will never know.

When alive Sullivan was never that successful, so it is fair to say that the mystery surrounding him has played a part in his legend. But as the years have pasted many could see the talent he possessed and U.F.O is far more than some curiosity. First released in 1969 it should have seen Sullivan up there with Buffalo Springfield and The Allman Brothers but things didn't work out that way.

The album is basically a country rock record with some nods towards the psychedelia that was to come but it is the lush strings and arrangements that set this apart and make it shine. Opener Jerome is indicative of the rest of the album with its summery jangly sound but the real magic starts with the blissful
Plain As Your Eyes Can See. This is a classic from the distorted rhodes piano to the 12 string guitar. Whistle Stop brings to mind Procol Harum in both the vocals and organ while Rosey sounds like something Burt Bacharach might have penned if he was on prozac. Yes, it is that good.

The likes of
Highways, So Natural and Sandman only add to the quality of this album. This is a record that was made before music had to be put into categories. It didn't matter then if it was country, pop or rock. It only mattered that it was good. I'm happy to admit that I have had a bootleg of this album for many years and have cherished it dearly. It is up there for me along side Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Déjà vu and Buffalo Springfield's self titled debut and now with this re-issue you can cherish it to.

www.lightintheattic.net


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

~ Thursday, 3 February 2011

Various Artists: 37th State

This double album looks specifically at the musical scene of the Nigerian music community in London. The albums title comes from the nickname given to London by the Nigerian community that lives there... all 100,000 of them. This compilation is the brainchild of musicians Stephane Malce and Dele Sosimi, with its aim being to introduce the depth of talent within the community they live and work in. The vibe of the album is chilled and based in funk, hip hop and dub that gives no clues to its heritage or locale as it could easily have been made by musicians from New York, Stockholm or Berlin as the styles on display here can be heard in any of these places.

The best known name on the album is Keziah Jones (well.. best known to me). His tracks
Fire and Invisible Hands are slow funk that never really gets going and suffers from a repetitiveness that borders on boredom. Things only look up with the arrival of Tony Allen's Best Bet which marries African style with James Brown funk in a magical soulful soup. Ty's All Get Down is a classy slice of Hip Hop that we have came to expect from him after last years well received Special Kind Of Fool album. Perhaps the one track with 'hit' potential is the smooth Ladies UK from Elle Holland and Giffy. Holland is blessed with a magnificent voice while Giffy has a lyrical flow that brings to mind Just Jack or The Streets.

The second of the two discs features remixes of tracks from the first disc and is far more of a floor filler with the two remixes of Keziah Jone's Invisible Hands being the pick of the bunch. Greg Cerrone takes on remixing duties and delivers two club friendly floor fillers with the second remix being the funkiest and best.

This is a good collection of tracks from a scene that deserves more exposure than it get. It reminds me of the type of output that San Fran/New York label Naked Music does so well. If you are looking for a record to get you in the mood before you head out for a night on the town then this one may just fit the bill.
www.myspace.com/37thstate

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

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Jim Noir: Zooper Dooper (ep)

When Jim Noir's name is mentioned it is normally followed by eccentric, maverick, enigmatic etc but that is because he is all of these. He is never destined to be a household name which is a real pity as he normally creates interesting, engaging and seriously infectious pop songs. I say normally as sadly Zooper Dooper is none of these and is his least engaging work to date.

Zooper Dooper feels like a studio experiment that never quite got finished. There is a saminess to many of the tracks that is perhaps his intention but is ultimately unrewarding to the listener. It is not all bad news though as the title track is a brilliant psychedelic trip of vocal loops and sample that stands head and shoulders above the rest of this ep.

If you are new to Jim Noir then this won't win you over as there is nothing on here anywhere near as good as any of the tracks from his wonderful Tower Of Love album, so buy that instead.

www.jimnoir.com

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Jil Is Lucky: Jil Is Lucky

Jil Is Lucky is the moniker of Parisian singer songwriter Jil Bensénior and cohorts, and this the bands debut album, is getting its UK release after first being released in his native France in 2009. He has been causing quite a stir in his homeland with high profile tv appearances and his music being picked up for tv ads.

I like Jil Is Lucky. They remind me of a youthful Dexy's Midnight Runners with the impetulance of The Cure. Their sound is a melting pot of folk, ska, punk and pop that feels refreshingly nieve yet very familiar.

The album opens with the slow building Winter Is Over that busts into brass filled life half way through before retreating like a naughty school boy who has over stepped the mark. If someone told me that J.E.S.U.S Said was written by Robert Smith, I would have no problem believing them as this could have been lifted straight of any Cure album. There is not doubt in my mind that the star of the show is the slow burning I May Be Late with some nifty guitar licks doing battle with Mr Bensénior's impassioned vocals. The single and the bands best know song, The Wanderer, is a wonderfully bittersweet tale filled with Parisian flair that has much in common with the much missed Les Négresses Vertes.

The album closes in epic style with the 10 min plus Hovering Machine. A retro sounding slice of guitar driven pop that lifts and lays you with crescendo after crescendo that will have fans of Dinosaur Jnr and Teenage Fanclub grinning from ear to ear.

This album is a slow burner. It will take a few listens to fully get what these guys are about but it is worth the perseverance as what you discover is a darkly witty album with some great pop songs.

www.myspace.com/jilislucky

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


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Return To Mono: Framebreaker

San Franciscan electro rockers Return To Mono reminded me of Garbage. The band that is. There sound is slightly more electro driven than Shirley Manson and her cohorts but where RTM trump them is that their music has a far more dynamic depth to it. Darker and dirtier.

In Tanya Kelleher they have a front woman with a distinctive and unique voice that is a much the driving heart of the band as their relentless drum machines and electro bass lines. The title track,
Framebreaker, is a pulsing slice of electro dance that has effortless crossover appeal while the ethereal sounding The Promise retains a certain fragility even given the drum'n'bass style backing that shows a great understanding of pulling different genres together and using them to great effect. The 80's sounding Seeker Circuit is the one track that seems to capture exactly what RTM are all about. They take their influences from bands who pioneered music rather than copied it, yet RTM are indeed copyists... just very good ones. While bands doing a similar thing like Florence And The Machine lack creativity and individuality, RTM have this in abundance.

They like to play with sound as See You On The Other Side and XRUZT take us on a blip and bleep ride of electro experimentation that is strangely hypnotic. On Black Swan they remind us of their dance credentials with a song that will have left field groovers heading for the discothèque.

This is an album that takes a few risks and is all the better for it. RTM make pop music and it doesn't come much better than this.

www.returntomono.com

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

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Lissa-Käthe: Reach You (ep)

The debut ep from the Edinburgh based songwriter/composer Lissa-Käthe is a difficult one to pigeon hole. There is definitely a Baroque classical element to it but there is also an Eastern European folk feel to it as well. Her skills as an arranger/composer are formidable and are the strongest part of this 5 track ep. It is hard to know exactly who this record is aimed at or will appeal to. The songs are interesting and engaging but ultimately they are let down by Lissa-Käthe's voice which comes across as rather tuneless and twee, especially on the title track and Valkyrie Freedom.

It is clear Lissa-Käthe is a talented musician and composer but sometimes it is also about knowing your limitations and working within them.

www.myspace.com/lissekathe

~ Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Jo Bywater: Cycle Grace Pulse Break

The first thing that struck me when I first listened to this, the debut album from Jo Bywater, was how much she reminds me of a fresh faced KT Tunstall. I don't mean she is a like for like copy, but rather that her passion, playing style and quirkiness is much the same as what first attracted me to Ms Tunstall. This is a fairly raw piece of work with little in the way of production but when it is just an acoustic guitar and voice then there is something reassuring about keeping a live feel to the proceedings.

Bywater's influences obviously come from the alternative end of the acoustic world with the likes of Newton Faulkner, Nick Harper and Jon Gomm having played a part in what Bywater is trying to achieve. While her guitar playing is competent, it is however her soaring vocals that mark her out from the crowd. Album Opener Disclaimer will have any listener checking to make sure they are not listening an early KT Tunstall recording. The resemblance is uncanny. She does however stamp her own individuality on this record with the downbeat Smokescreen where she uses the body of the guitar for percussion.

The seven tracks contained on this album show Bywater to be a talent that still needs to be nurtured rather than the finished article but with songs like Wave in her repertoire, she certainly has the makings of something special.

www.jobywater.com

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

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Apologies for the lack of activity...

Apologies everyone for the lack of activity on the site for the last month. This has been outwith our control, so if you are waiting for the review of your album, single, ep etc to appear, we thank you for you patience.

We have a back log of reviews to get through, so we should have caught up with them all within the next few weeks.

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