Monday, March 19, 2018

The Best Albums of Februrary 2018.

Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) 

The original Twin Fantasy is to bedroom made bandcamp albums what OK Computer is to 90's rock albums. I'd been hoping that it  might be one day re-recorded since the day I first heard it. When it was actually announced that this would happen there hadn't (or probably won't be) an album I'd looked forward to hearing more this year. The original Twin Fantasy is a short sharp blast of scuzzy indie rock songs, unfortunately ruined by horribly cheap production, which still couldn't quite hide how great some of those songs were. Since then Will Toledo has recorded many more albums, of better quality, yet the original twin fantasy still retains it's cult status. Rather than simply recording the songs in a professional studio Will has expanded the songs to epic proportions. The song's have been stretched out with more spoken word pieces and experimentation yet the lo-fi feel still remains. this new Twin Fantasy may be the best album I'll hear all year. As far as indie rock goes in 2018, this is as life affirming, odd, and downright brilliant as it gets.

Giver - Where the Cycle Breaks 

Giver are a German heavy metal band who take cues from 80's thrash metal legends but they've updated and tweaked the sound to make it heavier and darker. Giver embody the look and feel of 80's trash and crossover, and their crushingly heavy sound on this album gives my ears a battering. This is likely to be as heavy, fresh and inventive metal album as I'm likely to hear this year.

Everything is Recorded - Everything Is recorded by Richard Russell

Richard Russel is one one of the unsung heroes of British music, being a key part of XL records and the producer for the late Bobby Womack, Gill Scott Heron and more recently Damon Albarn. With Everything is recorded Richard is masterminding a series of mostly improvised re-imaginings of other songs, best of which is Grace Jones' 'nightclubbing' which is reworked into 'Mountains of Gold'. on EiR collaborates with a hugely diverse spectrum of artists, including Giggs, Sampha, Ibeyi and Peter Gabriel. The vibe is bruit and colourful and the music styles are frequently diverse, mixing grime, hip-hop, electronica, and world. The only reoccurring theme is the opening skit about loneliness and depression, which gives the LP a sombre poignancy.

Wild Beasts - Last night all my dreams came true. 
The announcement of Wild Beats split last year was upsetting to me as after having been aware of them for many years I had only just started to like them thanks to their fantastic fourth album 'Boy King'. That album found Wild Beasts reinvented from artsy and sensual to aggressive and sexual. Boy King took cues from Nine Inch Nails, ditching guitars for heavy synth stabs. It's sad to see a band call it a day after reaching such a tantalising climax. This live-in-studio album makes up for the disappointment slightly, taking the best of 'Boy king' and mixing it with the rest of their discography.

Don Broco - Technology 

For a long time Don Broco seemed a band out of place, too laddish for the emo crowd, yet too heavy and polished for the indie crowd. On their third album Don Broco not only sound sure of themselves but ready to take on the world. The corniness of the first two albums is completely gone and in it's place is a darker edge and a more concious feel to the lyrics. 'Technology' might not be quite as deep as it makes itself out to be or as artistic as some of my honourable mentions but for no-nonsense riff heavy rock music this is one of the best albums of it's kind I'll hear in 2018.

Honorable Mentions
US Girls - In a Poem Unlimited. 
Black Panther: The Album 
Rich Brian - Amen 
Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Insecure Men + Raf Rundell Live at the Hare and Hounds Review (15/3/18)

Who is Raf Rundell? When Raf came on stage shrouded in darkness with his electric guitar it seemed obvious with his thick Mancunian accent and his stripped back songs that he is a kind of Guy Garvey-ish singer songwriter. Raf exudes a similar warmth and instant likeability to Elbows front-man.  Yet things quickly changed when the rest of his band joined him on stage for the funky ‘every morning’ during which he had to explain that that the saxophonist hadn’t shown up for his solo. To much laughter Raf simply hummed the Saxophone solo and got on with the show without a hitch.Despite his voice being sore from touring and the keyboardist not showing up either Raf’s band sounded tight and funky. Raf pulled another trick out his sleeve and showed off his rapping ability on ‘Ric Flair’. If Elbows songs romanticizes the north then Raf’s tales of needing to “pay for the sportswear” and everyday having him “California dreaming” reflect a more gritty reality. Raf took things in yet another direction and finished his set with the irresistible disco banger “sweet cheeks” leaving me still wondering who Raf Rundell is but also leaving me wanting more. 6.8/10

Some bands make an impression before they’ve even played a note. Insecure Men are a 9 piece band, including three keyboardists, a saxophonist and slide guitarist. Insecure Men live up to their name, hiding behind decks of keyboards like Gary Numan's Tubeway Army, with sullen faces but also looking cool as fuck, sporting casual brown suits for their own take on the classic post punk/blitz kids look. Despite having many members and featuring stars such as ‘Childhood’s Ben Romans Hopcraft and what may have been a fame shy Sean Lennon lurking in the shadows, this is very much Saul Adamzewski’s band. Saul’s other band Fat White Family quickly became famous for their chaotic live shows and general depravity.  However Insecure Men mix Saul's sense of depravity with Chilhood's soulful pop. With Insecure Men Saul has created a lush, sophisticated sound that he could never have achieved with Fat Whites, which contrasts with his gruff vocal delivery and disturbing lyrics. Insecure Men do little to engage the audience, with Saul only speaking to introduce the songs in a matter of fact style. In what may be only a half truth, announcing that “all women love me and all men fear me” and that “this song’s about Heathrow Airport, it's called
Heathrow”. Many of Insecure Men's songs manage to be instantly familiar. “Mekon Glitter” takes the iconic drum beat from ‘We Will Rock you’ while ‘Heathrow’ steals the tune of silent night. The instant familiarity of these songs only adds to their disturbing nature.  Ultimately I give Saul all the credit in the world for overcoming his addictions and forming a band as professional and sophisticated as Insecure Men. He’s taken some of the best qualities of Fat Whites and incorporated them into something even more surreal. My only complaint is that they came on stage, played for 45 minutes and that's about it. For all Insecure Men’s merits they seemed engaged yet also strangely detached, giving me little to linger in the memory.

Note: I didn't realise when writing this that Raf Rundell is a member of the 2 Bears. The 2 Bears are ace.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Up River, Giver, Vultures, Ghostwriter Live at Subside review (22/2/18)

Coming from the ashes of Crime and Punishment 2011, Someone said Fire and various other metal bands Ghostwriter (7.2/10) played their very first show at Subside supporting Up River. Despite it being their first ever show Ghostwriter sounded tight, heavy and well rehearsed, the result of over a years writing and playing together before taking to the stage. Joe Jones bought the same intensity of his older bands, strutting up the room and screaming, while at some points while rolling on the floor. Ghostwriter are a mix of hard rock riffs and heavy metal vocals, reminding me of metalcore bands such as Every Time I Die. One slower 'love song' showed off their versatility while I was generally pretty impressed by guitarist nik's riffs and solos. Ghostwriter first show was a confident first step from a band who already seem to have figured out their identity and sound.
Tamworth's Vultures (6.8/10) are a hardcore band who also mix screaming vocals into short sweet hard rock songs. Looking cool as hell and having a touch of desert rock in their sound.
It's a shame that Giver (7.6) didn't have a bigger crowd to play to, considering that they'd travelled all the way from Germany. Giver take cues from 80's thrash metal legends but they've updated and tweaked the sound to make it heavier and darker. With his long hair, vans and 'no macho bullshit' t-shirt their singer embodies the look and feel of 80's trash and crossover, and their crushingly heavy sound gave my ears a battering. Brighton's Up River (7.2)
are more of a melodic metal band, taking cues from both post punk and post hardcore. Yet the softer side of their music was left distorted and warped by Subside's soundsystem. Up River are the kind of metal band who make me imagine destruction and chaos, cities collapsing and and being swallowed up. Up River make metal that is doom laden and dark, so heavy that I presume their guitarists neck brace was from head-banging too hard. While their frontman screams into the floor and strikes Jesus Christ poses, whatever demons he is exorcising make for a cathartic experience for anyone watching.
This was a decent way to spend a Thursday night, all bands were heavy as fuck yet all different in their own ways

Interview with Ghostwriter (first ever interview!)

Ghostwriter are a new Birmingham based hardcore band. Mixing metal vocals into riff heavy melodic rock songs and taking inspiration from bands such as Cancer Bats, Every Time I die, Converge and While She Sleeps. After being impressed with their first ever show I decided to have a chat with them in the Subside smoking area.

Beat Town Blog: how are you all doing?
Joe: Good! But very sweaty
First I got to know all the band members names (Nikolas - Guitar, Dan - Drums, Alex - Bass, Joe - Vocals) as well as the fact that their lockup is called Janice. 

Nick: We like to give our lock-up a girls name
BT: It’s a bit like In the great escape where the tunnels are named Tom, Dick and Harry
Joe: she isn’t clean though, she is a bit filthy at the moment
BT: Have any of you heard of the 90’s TV show ghostwriter? In my school we watched it all the time. It was a kids show where a group of misfit teenagers solved petty crimes with the help of their ghost friend who would help them solve crimes using the English language.
Nick: It sounds badass but I’ve not heard of that
BT: Okay I seem to be the only person who remembers it.
Joe: Are we going to get sued as well by them?
BT: No! nobody but me remembers it.
Joe: Dan came up with the name actually
Dan: Yeah I did I was reading Roy Keane’s autobiography, he mentioned that he had a ghostwriter,  we were struggling for a band name so I just said let just use that.
Joe: It was between Ghostwriter and Roy Keane
BT: That’s taken though, there is a band called Keane!
Joe: That’s a good point, but there’s not a band called Roy Keane
Nick: I think with a name like (ghostwriter) we can play a lot of different genres, because it doesn’t sound like a really heavy band name or the opposite. We had an idea to write a song called pseudonym, about why people feel the need to hide behind a character.
BT: If you could ghostwrite a song for anyone who would it be?
Dan: I’d quite to write a song for Frank Carter And the rattlesnakes, that’d be cool or someone like Every Time I Die
Alex: If they were still around it would be Ghost of a Thousand.  If we could write a song for them,  that would be fantastic, Rest in peace
Nick: Massively underrated that band. we all tend to like bands that are quite niche. Who never really got there but stayed at a certain level. Underground bands, that’s what we’re all into really. me and Dan were playing in quite metal bands, quite ‘techy bands’ and this is the exact opposite of that.  We just want to write good riffs and jump around. We wanted to write something that we could get into ourselves.
Dan: … something Joe can roll around on the floor too.  I’d like to have a go (at ghostwriting) I’ve got bits and pieces written on my phone. I’d like to do a collaboration. I’d like to write lyrics, but  It would have to be something everyone agreed on
Nick: we just try to write as a team don’t we? Someone will have an idea or someone might pick up on something while jamming in between songs and band practises
Alex: what I will say is that our music is relatively simple but it does take a while to write it. We like to take our time to piece it all together.
Dan: it’s all about the context and how it all works together rather than the complexity of a single riff.
Alex: We try to write songs that are following some kind of structure but go on a tangent every now and then.  I don’t think you can pick out any of our songs and it’s just verse-chorus-verse chorus- breakdown. That’s just kind of how it’s kind of evolved.
At this point Vultures’ soundcheck becomes to noisy to talk over so the interview ends and we go check out more punk rock noise.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The best albums of January 2018

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard albums aside 2017 was a disappointing year for rock albums. while Creeper, idles, and milk teeth impressed me, new hopefuls such as Circa Waves and The Amazons were all rather disappointing. However 2018 has already proved to be a much healthier year for guys and girls with guitars. Kicking off with Shame's glorious début album 'Songs of Praise'. An album which finds the young Londoners mining the cold dissonant post punk of Joy Division as much as the sleaze of their peers Fat White Family. 'SOP' is 10 rough diamonds, mixing politics with pop and 'Idles' aggression with indie anthems in waiting. Dream Wife's self titled début was a similarly euphoric rush of pop tinged grunge anthems. Their thick Icelandic accents delivering a sadly often over looked message that women can not only rock as heard as men but that they deserve respect as people too. Dream Wife pull off this while sounding gloriously delirious, their début album is a blast. L.A.'s Starcrawler are another example of women making fantastic rock n roll. While Starcrawler are far more than just a vessel for Arrow De Wilde's blood spitting stage gimmicks, and their début is as good a record of glam rock tunes as you'll find this decade.
Another woman coming breaking out early this year is U.S. rapper CupcaKe. Whose buzz has been building over the past few years. Ephorize has the hallmarks of her unique sound from the ballsy trap flavoured production and her rapid fire flow delivering a barrage of pure filth. CupcaKe is good at delivering her sexually explicit lyrics in the form of witty one-liners and pop culture references, yet with Ephorize she shows an introspective side that marks her out as more than a one trick pony

Honourable mentions 
Jeff Rosenstock - POST
Khurangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
Marmozets - Knowing what you know now.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Figure 0.9. - Casket (based on a true story). Review.

If you've read any of my blogs before you'll probably be familiar with Crime and Punishment 2011. If you aren't then I'll give Figure 0.9. a bit of context. CPK were a short lived birmingham group who for little over two years terrified and confused basements across the country with their aggressive mix of grime inspired bars, heavy metal guitar samples, guttural screaming and quirky beats. Dan Carter was notable for spending much of these shows, jumping around, rolling about on the floor and getting into peoples faces. Dan's début album (which came out back in September, I'm late writing this), is both the closest thing the world will see to a CPK album and a bold step forward into being a solo artist.
When I interviewed Dan back in August he said that "A running theme of the album is believing in yourself and not really caring what other people think of you" and that "I’ve tried to make it as much like a proper album as possible". For an independently released début band-camp project 'Casket' is very much like a proper album. The production is clean, punchy and features a varied mix of sounds. There's few features, a few skits and it clocks in at 13 songs in 39 minutes. Casket is a far cry from the bloated, feature heavy mix-tapes most rap artists make their names with.
'Casket' begins with a short cocktail of trap beats, eerie piano melodies and white noise synths, while it may only be 50 seconds long it's a statement of intent, as Figure 0.9 points out that 'I'm not Dan Carter any more, I'm no longer broken, my name is Figure 0.9. and I'm about to split the earth open'. However Dan Carter does reappear on a guest verse on 'Killer MC' as Figure 0.9. cheers on his former self. Salem Witch Trials carries on the dark tone of the intro, with it's surprisingly catchy hook and white noise synths, backing track. Dan uses this track and many others to talk openly about his own mental health struggles, stating that 'the world has tried to kill me but I'm kicking back and screaming'. Dan uses the few skits on this album to casually discuss mental health, love, depression and his views on life in general. 'Dragon' and 'Reflecting' are also both dark grime tinged bangers, the former, featuring more sampled guitars and the latter a feature from his former bandmate Zero.
Amaryllis has another feature from another former CPK member Joe Jones. Who ditches his usual screams for an unsettling spoken word segment. While Dan raps from the heart about love and his girlfriend, while earlier tracks mix personal confessions with horror-core bravado, 'Amaryllis' features touching tributes to his girlfriend such as 'I know that you don't feel confident, but you light up the room believe it', over a burial style garage beat. Much of Casket shows Dan both growing as a person and honing his craft as an MC. Dan references this growth on 'treehouse' admitting that 'When I write I write about pain in my life'. Casket's closer and title track uses Placebo's 'Follow the cops back home' as a backdrop for a cathartic and emotional climax to an album that deserves far more attention.

Pay what you like here

The most disappointing albums of 2017

While many will write lists about the best albums of each  year and some will write about the absolute worst. 2017 produced a handful of albums which were neither. Some albums fell to short of the mark to make my best of or my honourable mentions, while not bad albums as such, these are the albums which fell too short of what I hoped they would be.

Arcade Fire - Everything Now.
Few albums have ever had such a huge impact on me and my musical taste as much as Arcade Fire's seminal masterpiece 'The Suburbs'. Where previous Arcade Fire albums had been concept records about death and religion, on 'The Suburbs' Arcade Fire wrote about their teenage years, lamenting the 'wasted years' of their youth and the uncertainty of their adult years. 7 years later all the subtlety that made Arcade Fire's music so engaging has gone. 'Everything Now' is also a concept album of sorts, looking at how technology has affected our world. The problem is that the Arcade Fire of old wrote songs that grabbed me by the heart, yet the songs on Everything Now (other than the incredible title track), simply annoy me with their smugness. I never expected or wanted to hear Win Butler singing bad chat-up lines over obnoxious 'big band' music or the frankly boring 'good god damn'. Arcade Fire's worst album is by no means a terrible listen, yet it falls a long way short of what they had already achieved.

Alt-J - Relaxer
'3WW' is the most gorgeous and beautiful tune Alt-J have ever put to tape. The simplicity  and  sparseness of the folky acoustic guitar opening and the devilish guest vocals of Ellie Rowesll make for something truly special. Which is why it's a shame that the rest of the album feels so unfinished and clumsy. 'Hit me like that snare' is an awkward attempt at Rolling Stones style raunchiness but the demo quality recording, grates next to the lushness of the rest of the album. 'Deadcrush' has a nice vibe but fails to live up to it's opening and the grating refrain of 'how green was my valley' on 'Pleader', nothing on 'Relaxer' lives up to the promise shown on '3WW'.

Stormzy - Gang Signs and Prayer
With Skepta and Wiley both having dropped some of the best Grime albums of their careers, I was looking forward to the crown prince of grime dropping his début. I was hoping for a dark, gritty and hard hitting album of grime bangers, and unfortunately I only heard half of one. While 'Mr Skeng', 'big for your boots' and 'return of the rucksack delivered on this, the other side of the album showed Stormzy shedding his rougher side for a gospel influenced sound, similar to that or Frank Ocean or Chance, the rapper. The ballads grate alongside the bangers, and while lyrically Stormzy bares far more than a grime MC usually would, the mix of styles is far too uneven to make for a satisfying whole album listen. At nearly an hour long 'Gang signs and Prayer' drags, and lacks the punch I was hoping for.

Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds - Who built the moon? 
For a long time Noel seemed to have won a status as the nations favourite Gallagher. Yet in 2017 the tables turned with Liam finally turning in a decent back to basics rock album and winning back the affection of the Oasis fans who were disappointed by his Beady Eye projects. Meanwhile Noel decided to 'shake off the parka monkeys' with his most experimental album yet. Who built the moon? is an odd mix of epic stadium rock, psychedelia, and spaghetti western soundtracks. The only problem is he forgot to balance any of this experimentation with any decent tunes, and what's a Gallagher album without tunes?

The Big Moon - Love in the 4th Dimension. 
2017 has seen yet another wave of fantastic rock bands rise from obscurity. Creeper, Milk Teeth, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Pumarosa and many more have gained deserved success this year. Yet the band who seemed to get the most attention was 'The Big Moon'. Their début is an enjoyably raucous indie rock album, remiscent of the much missed 'Palma Violets'. While it may be fun this mish-mash of 90's/00's indie rock is hardly original or memorable, and ultimately very mediocre. I feel that 'The Big Moon's success is a product of the UK music industry laziness. If they were boys or weren't from London no one would care. I am all for girl bands, but the industry needs to stop treating girls with guitars as a novelty, and find artists with more originality than this.

Dishonorable mentions 
J Hus - Common Sense
Gorillaz - Humanz
Beck - Colours
Bjork - Utopia
Skepta - Vicious EP