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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Creeper. Live at the Institute Birmingham review (4/1217)

The name of this tour 'The theatre of fear' left me wondering a lot about from my first time seeing Creeper. Would it be a circus style show with fire breathers, dancers and magic tricks (like the time I saw Bentley Rhythm Ace?) or something entirely different? Throughout all the supports (the only one I caught was Can't Swim- who were pretty decent) was a banner proclaiming the show to be a world fair from 50 years ago. 'The Theatre of Fear' began ominously with (spoiler alert) people walking around the pitch black stage shining torches, as the intro spoken on the PA became more and more distorted. The eponymous purple suited James Scythe was there to warn us all that not all was what it seemed, and that we should beware of the ghoulish figure haunting the fair, before the ghoul itself was revealed with its eyes shining bright white spotlights over the audience. The plot of all this was quite irrelevant of course as bells and whistles or not Creeper can still put on an amazing show. Maybe this wasn't the circus I imagined, but full credit is due to Creeper for putting the effort into making their shows that bit more special. I will remember this show in particular for the frenzied mosh-pits during 'Room 309' and the almost constant wave of crowd surfers that I had to lift over my head and the few accidental kicks I took to the head while doing it. Despite all the chaos Creeper fans are a loving bunch who are all happy to pick each other off the floor and saying sorry for kicking others in the head.
While Creeper are all great musicians Will Gould stands out as being a fantastic front-man. His voice sounding even better live and looking like the kind of Goth that all Goth's aspire to being. Keyboardist Hannah Greenwood had her own time to shine as her and Creepers guitarist led another sing-along of 'crickets' the fact that this acoustic ballad was a highlight of the show and not a low only further highlights the strength of Creeper's song-writing. The same was true for 'I choose to live' and after the inevitable encore 'Misery' as the whole audience belted out every word. '

There's a lot of fucked up things happening in this world' said Will towards the end. I think he was telling us to all be good to each other, yet I think he also highlights why bands like Creeper are needed. So we can have an hour or so of blissful escapism surrounded by like-minded souls.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bands to watch in 2018!

With each passing year writing lists such as this seem more and more pointless. The bands who I want to break through probably won't break through. If they do, it will be the year after. There seems little point in simply writing about the bands that are most likely to break big otherwise I'd be telling you to all listen to another Dirty Hit signed Manchester band ripping off the 80's mainstream and passing it off as somehow alternative. These are my favourite of the bands currently being praised by other critics, alongside some of my own favourites.

Seafoal's 'Zeraclius' EP marks Seafoal's reinvention from acoustic ballardy to dark synth-heavy electronica. With her shaven head, punk style and outspoken nature, Seafoal and her gothic pop sound seem perfect to soundtrack whatever chaos lies before us in 2018. Check out 'Chess' or Fiends' to see what I mean.
Check out - Chess

If you've caught Supreorganism's Jools Holland performance you'll know why they're on this list. Superorganism are made up of 8 members from all over the globe. They sing, dance, paint themselves in glitter and make a refreshingly fun, unique take on electro-pop. Their songs seem to start, stop and glitch throughout. Of the 3 songs they've dropped so far 'Nobody cares' is the best
and despite having played so few shows and releasing so few material, their colourful pop deserves to break through in 2018.
Check out - Nobody Cares

The New York based South Korean DJ, singer and songwriter Yaeji, is on this list mostly because of the highlight track from her second EP 'Raingurl'. A ridiculously catchy deep house banger/female empowerment anthem, that has her understated voice over chilled house beats. The rest of her EP proves that there is more to her than dance anthems, dipping her toes into alternative RNB and remixing Drake's dance-hall hit 'Passionfruit'. Where Yaeji goes from here is anyone's guess, but it sounds like she's only getting started.
Check out - Raingurl

Shame are my kind of band. Shame sound as scruffy as they look and like all the best indie bands it's hard to imagine them ever doing anything else. Shame learned their trade in the same infamous London pub that birthed Fat White Family. Shame are the real deal, much like Cabbage they seem to be caught between political angst and simply taking the piss out of themselves. Yet the talent behind such post-punk tunes such as 'Concrete' or 'Gold Hole' is clear to see. Yet there is a softer side to Shame. Most notably on their completely insincere love letter to Theresa May, 'Visa Vulture'.
Check out - Concrete

I'm not going to pretend that Her's are in anyway original. If you've listened to Mac Demarco or Hoops, you'll know exactly what to expect. I have to give credit to Her's however because I've rarely ever seen a band having so much fun on-stage. Her's clearly love performing and entertaining their growing cult following. We will sorely need their like in 2018
Check out - Speed Racer

Since parting ways with ALLUSONDRUGS Damo has toured with Louise Distras, and now started his own solo project. He was the core songwriter and guitarist for one of my favourite bands and wrote many fantastic songs for them. His two singles 'Bother' and 'Poorly boy' follow in a similarly grungy direction as his old band, and considering how incredibly underrated Allusondrugs are Hypnosister looks like it will be similarly fantastic.
Check out - Bother

Gotts Street Park
Hailing from a council estate on the outskirts of Leeds. Gotts Street Park are making a nocturnal soundtrack to urban Britain. Mixing Jazz, Soul, and hip-hop together in their own smoky lo-fi style and collaborating with other rising stars such as Grand Pax and Benny Mails. Their début mix-tape' Volume One' mixers their early singles with newer snippets and samples of what's yet to come.
Check out - Love in bad company

The excellent Leed's based DIY label are always worth keeping an eye on for their ability to shine a light on some of the UK's most under appreciated bands. Following on from their minor successes with  ALLUSONDRUGS and Narcs (still two of the most underrated bands in the country) Clue's new 'likely lads' are Trash. Making the kind of washed out 80's tinged indie pop that never really goes out of style. Trash are ending 2017 on a high with the release of their début EP and touring a support slot with JAWS. Trash's upbeat indie-pop will be the soundtrack to 2018's summer.
Check out - 81

LA's Starcrawler seem determined to put the fun back into rock n' roll. Attracting plaudits from several rock stars and signing to rough trade records. They've become known for wild live shows in which singer Arrow de Wilde spits blood and seemingly has convulsions on the floor. Starcrawler sound like all the best bits of 70's glam rock and clearly want to bring back the theatrics of shock rock which have been sorely missed these past few decades.
Check out - Ants 

Sons of Raphael
Sometimes a début single tells you all you need to know about a band. Sons of Rapheal are two brothers with two guitars and a drum machine who look and sound like a 70's punk band and yet also look and sound like nothing else but themselves. The A-side 'Eating people has a video where they play to a bemused church congregation as Ronnie sings in his bizarre snarl of a voice. This is rock n' roll reinvented for a new generation.

Check out - Eating People

Hear the best bits of all these bands and more on my play-list below

*okay Pale Waves have got some good songs, but I just want a little bit more than that from my music.

Enter Shikari, Lower Than Atlantis, Astroid Boys. Live at Arena birmingham Review (24/11/17)

One of the best things about Grime's second wave is that it's opened up the borders beyoind just London. One of the most unlikely yet deserved success stories is Cardiff's Astroid Boys (7.2/10). Hot off the release off their debit album 'Broke'. Astroid Boys killed their set causing the hyperactive crowd to violently mosh and circle pit for the majority of their set. Despite being such a new act many of the crowd seemed to know the words to many of their album highlights off by heart, chanting 'we know you don't like the foreigners' over and over. Astroid boys opening set was a fantastic way to start the show. Bridging the gap between the rock and the grime kids, causing chaos Yet still leaving me with a feeling that they can do even better.
While I may moan about the 'Faux Rock' likes of Bastille or Imagine Dragons, what's slightly worse is the plethora of dull middle of the road rock bands currently doing the rounds. Of all the many underwhelming rock albums this year, Lower Than Atlantis' (6) 'Safe in Sound' was one of the most underwhelming. The live LTA experience isn't much better. The rest of LTA started playing for a bit until Mike Duce ran onto the stage with his bright red guitar and started singing 'Had Enough'. A song so mediocre and childish it makes The Enemy song of the same name seem like a masterpiece. There's nothing much wrong with LTA. They are pretty much everything you'd expect from a modern rock band. Big riffs, heavy grooves and radio friendly choruses. They're not bad so much as just kind of predictable and clichéd. I got bored and went get a beer just in time to be back to hear Mike Duce claim that they'd be back next year and sell out the whole room. If Enter Shikari can't manage to fill out the Arena Birmingham then I don't think LTA have any hope at all.
Enter Shikari's Birmingham show began with an ominous radar screen and the sounds of airplane pilot chatter being broadcast via a quadrophonic sound system around the room. The system was so high tech that the sound of the plane moving around the room felt as if one was flying directly over my head. When Enter Shikari came to the stage it was to 'The Spark' swiftly followed by their new album highlight 'The Sights'. Which immediately caused a mass singalong. Despite their state of the art sound systems and lighting rigs Enter Shikari are endearingly prone to fuck up's. The euphoric 'Anything can happen in the next hour' had to be played twice as drummer Rob Rolfe accidentally started the intro for 'Zzzonked' half way through. After apologising for 'rocking out too hard' they started again. Rou Reynolds also got a bit carried away screaming on top of a stack of speakers during 'Take my country back'. After one of the band pointed out that he'd forgot to play his trumpet solo, he whipped it out for a quick impromptu solo. Another highlight was when Rou magically disappeared and reappeared at the back of the arena with just his piano and a spotlight to play 'Airfield' and 'Adieu'. The former being one of the most poignant and introspective pieces Enter Skiari have ever written. The latter inspiring another mass sing-along while a flurry of hands reached for their phones to take photos, before Rob finished the tune with a thrashing of his drums.
Anesthesist predictably threw the crowd in top uproar before Rou announced 'Phase Three' where they would attempt to play 4 songs in the space of 8 minutes, all averaging at 170 BPM, and demanding that the crowd go wild. Which they did as Enter Shikari launched straight into 'Sorry your not a winner' and hands aloft clapped 3 times perfectly on cue. Rou Reynolds is proving to be a fantastic frontman. He often adressed the Birmingham crowd in an old school newcaster kind of style, similar to that of Public Service Broadcasting.  His shirt somehow managed to get ripped yet he didn't seem to mind to much, asking to feed off the Birmingham crowds energy. Chris Batten said that he reckoned Birmingham were on a par with the Manchester show in one last attempt to cause hysteria. The inevitable encore wasn't followed by 'Mothership' as I was hoping but another newer track about Rou Reynolds battle with anxiety, 'Live outside'. Not that I really minded, Enter Shikari had delivered more than enough.

*disappointingly I didn't get to hear 'Mothership'
Sorry about the shit photos, I took them on my phone.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The best albums of 2017 (honorable mentions)

These are all albums that are worth hearing but were not quite good enough to make the top 50. Listed in no particular order.

Thundercat - Drunk
Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory.
Wiki- No Mountains in Manhattan
Figure 0.9 - Casket (based on a true story)
Stormzy - Gang Signs and Prayer
J Hus - Common Sense
Inheaven - Inheaven 
Chealsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
Baxter Dury - Prince of tears
Kelela - Take me apart
SZA - Control
The National - Sleep Well Beast
Drake - More Life
Weezer - Pacific Daydream
Elbow - Little Fictions
Lil Pump - S/T
Slowdive - Slowdive
Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud
Blondie - Polinator
Sylvan Esso - What now?
King Gizzard and the Lizard wizard - Murder of the universe
Alex G - Rocket
Rat Boy - Scum
Neil Cicerega - Mouth Moods
The Drums - Abysmal Thoughts
Beth Ditto - Fake Sugar
Songhoy Blues - The Resistance
Mr Jukes - God First
Girl Ray - Earl Grey
Wesley Gonzalez - Excellent Musician
Phoenix - Ti Amo
Mura Masa - S/T
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam - The Mirage/Sink or swim
Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud
Queens Of The Stone Age - Villians
Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
Crywank - Egg on face, foot in mouth, wriggling, wriggling wriggling,