Friday, 2 October 2015

Shevils - One Thousand Years

Already with a two albums under their belt, Shevils are looking to cement their place as a hardcore frontrunner in what is already a fairly congested genre. What the Norwegian noise makers have fashioned though is an extremely modern take on what we all consider to be the hardcore status quo and this is typified perfectly with 'One Thousand Years', the second single to be taken from their up and coming third album The White Sea.

It's frantic, raucous and is a fine introduction to the eagerly awaited LP. The track is carried on by its bouncing, chugging guitar riff and it's frayed around the edges vocal delivery. Scandinavian bands always seem to possess far more energy than the rest of the world, however this track oozes influences from UK botherers Gallows and legendary hardcore outfit Every Time I Die.


'One Thousand Years' stands out from the pack with a little help from the snarling punk underbelly it carries, turning this into an entirely new hardcore beast.
Overall, it's a solid track and has definitely set the bar pretty high in terms of what to expect from the rest of The White Sea.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

JFK

"The very word secrecy is repugnant, in a free and open society. And we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, secret oaths and to secret proceedings. 
We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. 
That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence. On Infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumour is printed, no secret is revealed."

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Religion

I've been writing a lot of lyrics recently, something I haven't had to do for years. I'm finding it a lot harder this time around though because I'm just not that surrounded by drama anymore. Without having anything like that to draw experience from I'm had to dig deep into myself and tap into a certain level of darkness to find something to write about. It was then that I found a large portion of my lyrics related to how I feel about religion.
Religion is something I've encountered fully just once in my life. For around 6 months when I was 22, I was severely depressed. It feels like such an easy way out to call it that but I guess some of the 'symptoms' were the same. I'd wake up and not want to get up. I hated just about everyone I had to see and talk to on a daily basis and I had no real passion or motivation to do anything. I never stretched as far as physical self harm though but my mental state was extremely fragile. I won't go into detail of the events that led to this but I will talk about the outcome.
Because I'm such a proud and stubborn person I refused to accept help from anyone. I certainly didn't want to see a professional about it and I didn't want to talk about it for the sake of getting it off my chest. I've personally never felt any great benefit from talking about my problems, as far as I'm concerned that only makes it feel more real. I just felt utterly useless, vulnerable and alone. Let me just say that feeling like you're backed into a corner with no sign of a positive outcome is truly soul destroying and it's not something I ever want to feel again.
At some point in my vulnerable mental state I must have made a semi-conscious decision to explore the possibility of using religion in a positive way. Now, I'm a scientist first and a fantasist later so the idea of garnering positivity from this book of fiction would have felt alien to me. But by this point I was just desperate enough to try anything. So i invested about 3 months of my time in the Bible, flicking to random pages as opposed to reading cover to cover. Now I'm not saying I became full on Bible-basher but it did throw up some interesting feelings. I won't go into too much depths regarding what i'd found but I will share possibly my favourite verse and one that still sticks with me, from Proverbs 24:14 - Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. - That one immediately jumped out at me, because it spoke about hope and wisdom in a way I'd not realised before. It talked about a future, something which is completely unknown to someone feeling any sort of depression. The ability to see the big picture and not just the miserable day to day that you're stuck in.
I'm nowhere near naive enough to think this little encounter with religion helped turn my life. Over time I found my happiness again and eventually learned to embrace a level of self esteem and self confidence that has served me pretty well up to now. I rarely let things get me down now and I'm able to keep my problems at arms length. My current views on religion haven't changed though. I don't fully understand the logic of a room full of people singing hymns and essentially being brainwashed but if this is how they find their happiness and purpose in life then who am I to judge. Maybe I'm too wrapped up in material things to fully comprehend accepting something into my life that I can't see. 


Monday, 29 December 2014

The Outfield - Play Deep (1985)

 Originally formed in Manchester under the monikers Sirius. B in the late 1970's, The Outfield spent many of their early years in conflict with the surging popularity of punk rock amongst the mainstream music scene in the UK. The Outfield originally adopted a more pop-rock sound and as such struggled to break through. The band disbanded although they returned a few years later under the name 'The Baseball Boys', played shows around London and recorded a demo that would eventually get them signed to an American label. Stateside record companies were impressed with the band's American style of sound and probably because their name contained the word 'baseball'. Following a final change of band name and thus becoming The Outfield, the band released their debut album Play Deep in 1985.

The album achieved incredible commercial success, reaching #9 on the Billboard 200 in early 1986 and going on to reach triple platinum status. This was partly due to the band championing a sound that the Americans just couldn't get enough of. Bands such as Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Boston and Dire Straits all enjoyed #1 albums between 1985 and 1986 and The Outfield's debut impressed most because of how honed their music style already style sounded. Little did the American public know though is that the band had been playing this kind of music for years already, albeit in small UK venues and as such away from the mainstream. 



'Say It Isn't So' was the album's opener and the first single released by the band. The video featured a young woman wandering through the hustle and bustle of northern English night life and four heavily-mulleted gentlemen (with white Stevie Wonder on keyboards) who very clearly looked like they knew what they were doing. They had the drumstick twirling, the fist pumping, the baleful staring and pointing directly at the camera; they had it all. The lyrics were quintessentially 80's, from the opening line of "you got me all screwed up so much I can't turn 'round/and I've been running about with some funny girls, I'm not so tough" to the lovelorn chorus of "say it isn't so, tell me I'm the only one". 
Second track "Your Love" was the one that nailed it for The Outfield and the one that essentially pushed the album so highly in the Billboard charts. The single hit #6 on the US singles charts and up to yet has reached over 17 million views on YouTube (incidentally the single reached #83 in the UK charts, highlighting the stark contrast in popularity from one side of the Atlantic to the other). Bassist and lead-vocalist Tony Lewis's singing style is just perfect for the kind of music The Outfield were playing. Play Deep was full of emotionally charged, heart on your sleeve moments and Lewis could convey that as well as anyone else around that time. The bombastic, gang-vocals on the chorus lyric "I don't wanna lose your love tonight" sounded like Van Halen in their peak, not an English band fresh from their first album. 

The Duran Duran-esque "I don't Need Her" kicks up the tempo and adds a little more bite to precedings. It's worth noting that while Tony Lewis was lead vocalist, all the songwriting was done by guitarist John Spinks, a man that very clearly looks like he belongs in an 1980's rock band. His mullet was like a gigantic, blonde peacock and his fashion sense was something Freddie Mercury would have been very proud of. A talented songwriter and eccentric musician, Spinks sadly passed away earlier this year.
If you want to see just how popular The Outfield became in their first year as a mainstream band, go check out the video to "Everytime You Cry". The video was shot at a live concert, with a backdrop of an endless sea of hands and lighters. This is followed by the excellent, power-pop double header of "61 Seconds" and "Mystery Man".

One of the things I most enjoy about the band is that they play their music with a smile. If other British bands such as U2 and Depeche Mode are a little bit too serious for you then The Outfield are a fine substitute. Even in videos for their most emotional, loveless-themed songs, frontman Tony Lewis can be seen beaming from ear to ear. The rest of the band carry a swagger and a good time vibe that very little modern British bands seem to want to harness. 

The next few tracks of Play Deep consist of the ten tonne ballad "All The Love", Mr Mister influenced "Talk To Me" and "Taking My Chances" which featured additional vocals from Spinks. The album is rounded off with "Nervous Alibi" which is a brooding ballad that gives Lewis a chance to really stretch his vocal chords.

Sadly, The Outfield's success was short lived. Follow up album Bangin' was a top 20 hit and was certified gold but popularity waned with each subsequent release. The band eventually announced a lengthy hiatus in the 90's but returned to play a couple of shows back in the UK. One of my favourite tales surrounding their reformation was that many of their shows were played in a small pub in the East End with many of the crowd unaware the band had sold millions of records in the US. Such was the polar opposite levels of popularity the band achieved stateside and back in their homeland. Following this was a complete disbandment of the band until in 2009 the original lineup reunited to record their 9th album Replay which was received with extremely favourable reviews.

The Outfield are still active today and I would love to catch them live someday. However with the recent death of Spinks the band's future is uncertain, though with modern popularity of bygone-era bands such as Fleetwood Mac, The Who and Black Sabbath then I guess anything is possible. One thing's for sure though if you like big hair and big tunes then grab a copy of Play Deep and relive one of the most playful, catchy and downright beautiful albums the 1980's had to offer.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Top 20 albums of 2014

2014 has sure been an eventful year and yet again it's a year that has given us so much great music. Over the course of the last 12 months I've sat down and attempted to rank the twenty albums that have left the biggest mark on me, whether it be through musical endeavour, talent, quality or just downright guilty pleasure.
As always, this ranking is based solely on my viewpoints and opinions and in no way is it definitive, therefore I'm not asking you to agree with me. It's just a bit of fun, innit?
One thing I will say though is that none of these decisions have been swayed by chart positions, album sales or how many times they've got naked to sell records. Go and listen to Capital FM if that's what you're after. This is pure and simply the music I've most enjoyed this year.




20. Taylor Swift - 1989

I'll admit, I've previously been very critical of Swift and her music. Her cack-handed attempt to revive country pop (Michelle Branch did it much, much better) and her never ending list of disgruntled ex-fellas have all led up to this, her fifth album, which for a 24 year old is impressive in itself. I'm a sucker for synthpop and this has it by the bucketload, while obviously being very well produced. This is one of many albums that have surprised me in 2014. Maybe I'll grow to like her one day, maybe even take her seriously. Who knows?




19. TV On The Radio - Seeds

For those that don't know, TV On The Radio are an art rock band from America and Seeds is their fifth album. Of all the things I enjoyed about Seeds, the sheer eclectic range of styles is my favourite. Very few bands get the balance between electronic and rock as perfect as this. As reflective, euphoric, gentle and poppy as any album released this year. 





18. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End

Now I don't know about you, but I fucking love Weezer. I could listen to Rivers Cuomo's eternally teenage outlook on life and love all day. Everything Will Be Alright.. marks an upturn following a couple of suspect albums. Weezer will always appear on any drunk playlist I make and I found plenty of tracks from this album that would make great additions. I already wrote extensively about this album and you can read all about that HEREEEEEEE.




17. Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Most people heralded the release of Royal Blood's debut as 2014's rock revival and while there have been much better rock albums this year, it's still an impressive album in itself from the Brighton duo. The dirty wails and drones of the bass guitar is something I've never really heard before in a mainstream album and I love the garage/blues rock feel of the whole thing. Whether Royal Blood become just another flash in the pan remains to be seen, but for now its good to just get down and dirty with the debut.



16. Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt

It's literally impossible for these guys to make a bad album. I've been entranced with The Gaslight Anthem since The '59 Sound and my obsession is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Their blend of classic rock, punk and an endless supply of clever, lovelorn wordplay is a formula that never has to change because it's been perfect with every album, topped off by Brian Fallon's scratchy howl-like vocals.




15. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Probably the only time I've ever agreed with NME's end of year best album list (AM was not the best album of 2013 guys, give it a rest) St. Vincent is a damn fine album. I've been a fan of Annie Clark's work for a few years, including 2012's project with seminal filmmaker David Byrne, but none of it has grabbed me as much as this album. Some albums manage to capture the sound of a musician at their absolute peak, none more so than this. 




14. Future Islands - Singles

Over the years, there have been more and more bands that manage to capture the sound of the 80's and turn it into success. Future Islands are definitely one of them. I didn't know much about them until 2014, but with their fourth album Singles I've become quite a fan. There's all sorts of influences going on here, from Pet Shop Boys' knack for a tune to Human League's avant garde style of storytelling. I love an album that's good enough to make you want to check out the rest of the back catalogue.



13. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

It's been a long long time since I've heard a band champion the atmospheric, 'spacey' rock sound made so popular by U2, as much as The War On Drugs. So many bands try it and ultimately fall by the wayside, unable to tell the whole story and getting lost in the sound they're trying to create. Lost In The Dream is the best U2 album to be released in 2014 and yes I'm including the one made by the Irish botherers themselves in the equation. 




 12. First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

The second album from 'Swedmerican' duo First Aid Kit builds on the success of the debut, without any need to change anything. The new dynamics and shift towards a more orchestral sound is a bold one but it results in Stay Gold becoming THE folk album of 2014. A lot of people who don't like folk such as myself can easily find something to love about Stay Gold, whether its the warm, soaring vocals or the big, heart-on-sleeve choruses. It's so easy to fall in love with First Aid Kit.



11. Ariana Grande - My Everything

I'm deadly serious. If you're not familiar, Ariana Grande played the eternally pre-pubescent Kat on Nickelodeon's fanny fest Victorius. She's certainly grown up now though and although i've probably lost about 400 man points from liking My Everything, its a damn fine album with a starstudded guest vocal cast. It's also been produced to within an inch of its life. Her acting might be shite but her music career is sky high. My Everything is just fire. Or maybe I'm just going soft.



10. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

The hype surrounding this album was enough to swallow a man, but rest assured it was (for the most part) totally worth it. Sure, Dave Grohl's lyrics sound like an infant wrote them but fuck that, this is rock and roll at its finest. It's imperative to point out that eighth album Sonic Highways is a concept album and one must watch the accompanying documentary to truly understand it, but it's very rewarding once you do. Grohl has said the next 'proper' album will be heavier and that is definitely worth getting excited about.



9. Temples - Sun Structures

I was absolutely blown away by Sun Structures from my first listen. How a bunch of twenty-something British upstarts could seamlessly transcend back to the 60's was completely beyond me. It's refreshing too that some bands don't feel like lyrics always have to be fully comprehended, because not many in Sun Structures even half make sense. Temples are definitely one to watch for the future. Of course, you can read my more expansive review of Sun Structures here - LINKY



8. SomethingALaMode - Endless Stairs

Simply put, Endless Stairs is the slickest electronic album of 2014. From when I first heard their collab with L.A indie band DWNTWN I instantly knew they were something special. The added orchestral elements push this beyond being just another electronic album, as well as its unwillingness to pigeonhole itself to just one genre. SALM definitely deserve more acclaim than they are receiving, so here's hoping 2015 is their year.



7. Sleeper Agent - About Last Night

About Last Night is an album full to the brim of good time, warm, fuzzy garage rock. There's absolutely no pretence here, It's the kind of music you can't help but smile about. It's the kind of album that if it was your first time seeing Sleeper Agent live, within minutes you'd have your drink raised while singing the words at the top of your lungs. Sometimes music tried to be too clever for its own good, and then sometimes it just wants you to throw caution to the wind and have a good time.





6. Pink Floyd - The Endless River

We have a lot to be thankful for in 2014. Out of all those things, the one we should be most gracious for is some higher power deeming this year worthy of The Endless River, Pink Floyd's fifteenth and final album, as well as their first release in twenty years. Created as a tribute to late keyboardist Richard Wright, The Endless river is a sporadic collection of guitar tinged ambient soundscapes. It's absolutely beautiful and I'd encourage anybody to listen all the way through, to give yourself up and to lose yourself in it's current.


5. Lights - Little Machines

No doubt about it, Little Machines is the best out and out pop album of 2014. Canadian singer-songwriter Lights has taken stock from recently becoming a wife and mother to create what I consider her strongest release to date. She's added a newer simplicity to her usual blend of abstract art style of songwriting and it just works on so many levels. Its only a matter of time before the inner mainstream circle invite her in, because Lights deserves big things. Read my extensive 5/5 review of Little Machines HERE.



4. Tinashe - Aquarius

I was as surprised as anyone with how much I liked this album. I'd heard about Tinashe a few months before its release and after hearing a few tracks I instantly got the feeling that this album would be something special. Despite being advertised as a RnB album, its so much more than that, carrying elements of trip hop, dubstep and electronica. Tinashe can sing, rap, probably even cure the common cold, who knows? One thing's for sure though, Aquarius has left a huge mark on me and it deserves all the acclaim it gets.



3. The Colourist - The Colourist

I've been a long time fan of American indie band The Colourist and the handful of tracks I'd owned previous to this album's release were listened to a hell of a lot. Thankfully, their self-titled debut was better than anything I could ever expected. It was the main soundtrack of my summer. The male/female shared vocal chemistry is what carries this album along. I've listened to this album to death since I bought it and I can see it continuing that way long into the future.



2. Lonely The Brave - The Day's War

Hands down the best rock album of 2014, although most surprising of all is that it's by a British band. Lonely The Brave are a band that are just as powerful on CD as they are live, as their set at Truck Festival was one of my live highlights this year. The lyrics carry a dark, atmospheric feel to them and the music is often fast, frantic and anthemic. While 2014 has not quite been the 'rock revival' that people anticipated, Lonely The Brave have proven that rock is not dead at all and it's a lot closer to home than we think.



1. Broods - Evergreen

So the best album of 2014 as voted for by myself, comes from New Zealand duo Broods. I fell in love with them around the release of their self-titled E.P, yet Evergreen completely took me over. As far as I'm concerned it's the perfect mix of trip hop, electronica and synthpop released this year. Broods have yet to break in the UK despite already being hugely popular in NZ as well as taking the U.S by storm, so I can only hope that changes in the near future. Evergreen is the perfect example of an album that doesn't have to try too hard to be considered a masterpiece.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Maison Kitsuné - Sweet 16, introduction and review



French music and fashion label Maison Kitsuné have long been pioneers of the kind of music you'd find playing in hipster clothes stores and and swanky coffee shops. Their blend of easy listening electronica (or as I like to call it, hiptronica) and indie rock mixed with their knack of finding cool new artists months before they break onto the scene has ensured them as one of my favourite labels. With the release of their 16th compilation album, titled The Sweet 16 Issue, Maison Kitsuné have produced the latest batch of music's cool, new somethings. The album also has some awesome artwork, featuring caricatures of each artist on the album. 



1. Buscabulla - Sono
Buscabulla is a Puerto Rican band currently based in Brooklyn. Fresh from releasing their debut E.P Kitsuné a few weeks ago which was named by New York publication 'The Deli' as their EP of the month. 'Sono' is a very 1960's dream pop/salsa hybrid that obviously stems from the band's Spanish roots.

2. Fakear - Interstellar
An up and coming trip hop/electronic artist based in France. 'Interstellar' is a trip hop track with a dreamy twist to it, like Phantogram mixed with Depth Affect. 

3. Margot - No One's Gonna Miss You
Margot is an American classically trained violinist, who released a solo EP earlier this year. This is an pretty sultry sounding pop song, the producer of which also worked on Beyonce's self titled 2013 album.

4. We Are Shining - Hot Love
UK's We Are Shining, who's debut album KARA dropped in October, have been gathering  lot of pace in 2014, having already been in the studio with Kanye West and produced a track with Mercury Award nominated FKA Twigs. 'Hot Love' is a cool pop song that deserves to be on the radio.

5. Danglo - Forget You Forget You Forget You Forget You
Up and coming DJ from the UK, who's debut E.P was released in July. This track has a very bass tinged with house kind of feel to it.

6. Frances - Fire May Save You (Cesare remix)

Yet another UK based artist, Frances released her EP Fire May Save You not long back and coincided it with a tour of the UK and Europe. The original track is decent enough but the remix gives it added punch and is probably one of this compilations stand out tracks.

7. Logo - Kingda Ka
French electronic duo Logo provide one of this album's many housey moments.

8. Croquet Club - Jacuzzi
Electronic artist currently based in London. 'Jacuzzi' is a pretty solid trance track.

9. Citizens! - Lighten Up (Tobtok Remix)
UK based Citizens! have long been collaborators with Kitsuné and have amassed quite a fanbase. Tobtok's remix of their track 'Lighten Up' is a throwback to the new wave revival back in the mid-noughties. It's also one of two Tobtok inclusions on this compilation.

10. Davidian - Could Never feat. Eli & Fur) [Radio Edit]
I've long been a fan of fellow Nottingham-er Davidian, real name David Whitfield, and I'm thrilled to bits he's made it onto a Kitsuné compilation. 'Could Never' is a solid house track that deserves to be played in clubs.

11. Sego - 20 Years Tall
Utah duo Sego list their genres as 'alternative, axiomatic triangle and slacker punk' so make of that what you will. '20 Years Tall' is an uptempo indie disco song with some serious summertime vibes.

12. JAWS - Think Too Much, Feel Too Little
Birmingham's JAWS already have that air of a band that will become something special. With a debut album on the way and a UK tour to come. 'Think Too Much, Feel Too Little' is a nice 1975/Peace-esque indie rock track.

13. Nimmo and the Gauntletts - Others
London based band currently embarking on a tour of the UK and Europe. 'Others' is probably the best track on this album, could easily fit right in on any mainstream radio playlist. 

14. Kwamie Liv - 5 Am
Denmark's Kwamie Liv has been making quite a name for herself over Europe. This track is slow, soulful and very brooding.

15. Christian Rich - Real Love (feat. Angela McCluskey)
Christian Rich is an American DJ duo made up of twins Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan. They're already making a name for themselves having worked with artists such as Drake, Jay Z, and Chris Brown. 'Real Love' is a cool disco track with a chill out vibe to it.

16. Tobtok - Deux
Sweden's Tobtok follows in the long line of many Swedish artist in successfully creating catchy, poppy dance tracks. 'Deux' is a funky, disco dance tune and is also a stand out moment on this album.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Playlist 25/06/14

It's been a while since I did one of these. After a couple of busy weeks travelling, attending festivals and not having a working laptop I've neglected this blog a fair bit. Here's a handful of tracks that you may or may not have heard.

1. A Silent Film - Reaching The Potential
From 'Sand & Snow' (2012)


2. Bad Suns - Cardiac Arrest
From 'Transpose EP' (2014)


3. Broods - Bridges
From 'Broods EP' (2014)


4. Glass Animals - Pools
From 'Zaba' (2014)


5. Imaginary Cities - Bells Of Cologne
From 'Fall Of Romance' (2013)


6. Little Green Cars - The John Wayne
From 'Absolute Zero' (2013)


7. Papercuts - Still Knocking At The Door
From 'Life Among The Savages' (2014)


8. Rise Against - I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore
From 'The Black Market' (2014)


9. The Gaslight Anthem - Rollin' And Tumblin'
From 'Get Hurt' (2014)


10. Royksopp & Robyn - Do It Again
From 'Do It Again' (2014)


11. The Royal Concept - World On Fire
From 'Goldrushed' (2013)


12. Sleeper Agent - Waves
From 'About Last Night' (2014)


13. SomethingALaMode - On My Mind feat. DWNTWN
From 'Endless Stairs' (2014)


14. Scattered Trees - Love And Leave
From 'Sympathy' (2011)


15. Parade Of Lights - We're The Kids
From 'Golden EP' (2014)