The Other Ones : The Other Ones, LP released February 2021

The debut long-player from London four-piece The Other Ones is a riot of noise and craftily crafted punk, with a few quiet sections slipping effectively under the radar of fuzz. There have been some pre-release singles to whet the appetite but surprisingly not the brilliant opening track ‘Drown You’. This song has it all; a killer introduction that springs from nowhere, a punk riff from heaven/hell, harmony vocal lines and spellbinding chorus ‘…all I ever really wanted to do is drown you…’. The drums and guitars drench the listener in distorted sound and it is pure pleasure.

‘On Top Of Me’ has a chord sequence that seems to be catching up on itself and demented guitar lines that underpin the energy of the vocal. ‘Forever Young’ is a perennial pop single, then within the field of energy of ‘Money’ there is lyrical acerbity and absurdity to get to the truth, ‘….we never kiss…..we never touch….. we only talk about money…’. It is not until track six when we have some calm respite with the acoustic ‘I Wish I Was Your Boyfriend’ with the biting ‘…your always in my mind but whose on yours…are you only with me because you’re bored?…’.

‘Better Off Alone Again’ strays into full-on rock territory while ‘Wasted Youth’ is a glorious drum extravaganza. Title track ‘The Other Ones’ is almost frightening in its intensity and serves as an effective manifesto for the band. Closing with the ethereal acoustic lines of ‘I Think Too Much’ is an unexpected departure but seems to work perfectly well to bookend this dynamic collection.

The Other Ones | Facebook

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Katy Kirby : Cool Dry Place, LP released 19 Feb 2021

The new LP from Texas-based singer/songwriter Katy Kirby is refreshing, lyrically challenging and hints of summers to come in its music.

The short and sparse ‘Eyelids’ sets the dreamlike tone for the collection; acoustic guitar and piano complementing the beguiling vocal. With music and words that seem not quite aligned but very much in a good way ‘Juniper’ has one of those chord sequences that sounds like it is constantly catching up with itself and instantly lodges in your brain. A relaxed voice effortlessly flows above the uncluttered backing, sometimes giving way to just a lone guitar. The imagery of the lyrics ‘…you don’t need a gardener to know…which way the blossoms going to float….’ meshes seamlessly with the instrumentation, with extra nuances through the two and a half minutes running time. According to Katy “This is a song about motherhood, mostly...’.

The jumpier rhythm and hesitations of ‘Peppermint’ is followed by the delicate and playfully addictive ‘Traffic!’. Previously released as a single this gorgeous dancing melody is a winner, with a hook to immerse yourself in. A guitar solo, heavenly choir and electronic voice treatments all add to the mix.

The LP is packed full of treats, including the quiet piano ballad of ‘Portals’ and probably best of all the leisurely musings, big chorus and grand finale of title track ‘Cool Dry Place’ followed by the enigmatic low-key bookend of ‘Fireman’.

At the intersection of indie pop, lo-fi folk and perfectly crafted song writing this is a gorgeous debut album.

Katy Kirby (kirbykaty.com)

Keeled Scales

Mischa : New Beginnings, EP released February 2021

A track by track review of the excellent debut EP from rising UK country-pop singer/songwriter Mischa.

1.Do You Remember. Released as a single last year this is the most immediate track on the EP; a glorious combination of slow-burning verse gradually rising to a great big title hookline. The nuances of the tune are brought to life by Mischa’s versatile voice and the well-balanced instrumental production features a driving rhythm guitar, duelling with some bluesy lead lines.

2.Won’t Be Long. Slowing down for this ballad, piano and pedal steel set the tone as Mischa shows her vocal range from quiet meditation to soaring above the band.

3.If I Cried. The emotional centrepiece of the four tracks, a stately torch song where the straightforward melody is fully inhabited with a clear statement of heartbreak, ‘…if I cried….would you notice then?….would you stop or do it all again?….’ The powerful vocal performance inexorably draws the listener in to share the sorrow.

4.Moving On. One of the eternal themes of country music, the leaving behind of place or relationship connections to branch out. This track aligns the underlying regret of the verse with a cautious optimism in the punchy chorus. The quieter middle-eight sums it up ‘…you give me no reason to stay…so I’ll just walk away…’, before a final chorus leaves a strong impression of the confident voice and rich production found in these four songs.

Mischa Jankowska | Facebook

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Kammahav : Distans, LP released 22 February 2021

Kammahav are Christian Gustafsson from Forshaga in Sweden and Tony Jenkins from Cambridge, composers and performers of this new double CD.

It is a rewarding and dense mix from the start; emerging from a collage of sound effects is the grandiose pop of ‘Stitches’, referencing the assassination of Swedish politician Olof Palme in 1986. With distant vocals and fuzzy guitars like mid-period Neil Young it is a standout track. ‘Carrying On’ showcases the acoustic pop of the duo then the orchestration richly fills out the sound to impressive effect. ‘It’s Not Me…It’s You’ picks up the pace in a cinematic relationship song which the title line succinctly describes.

There are depressing political reflections on ‘The 52’ and in comparison the list of possible fates for the singer ‘….I could drown …I could suffocate…I could be stranded beneath the ice…’ sounds strangely uplifting. A strength of the duo is when they meld together the Scandi-noir soundscape of melting guitars and strings with the personal but disconnected words, evidenced on the slow-burning ‘Hea’.

And there is much, much more including the compact pop burst of ‘Seaside Ghost Town’ and the mellow play out of ‘…To The Sea’, as well as a whole disc of bonus tracks, remixes and alternative takes, showing the endless inventiveness of this creative pairing.

Kammahav – Home | Facebook

Everlasting Records | Facebook

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Hannah Rose Kessler : Come Feel Me, single released February 2021

A new single from UK singer/songwriter Hannah Rose Kessler, a preview of her EP due in March.

Previous release ‘I Really Wanna’ was a hazy meandering where the vocal and harmonies spun jazzy lines on top of amiable guitar, acoustic bass and quiet percussion. A track that pulled the listener into a warming but slightly dissonant world.

Now ‘Come Feel Me’ brings martial percussion to the fore, hollow and unrelenting over deep and fuzzy bass pedals. The vocal seems isolated in the quite bleak wasteland of the music where there may be the optimism of ‘….colours changing in the sky…’ but soon the realisation of ‘…..so lonely, I’m lonely, we’re lonely….’. Halfway through the track adds some huge slices of industrial guitar before the loneliness and the plea of the title phrase gradually fades away.

On repeated listens you realise that this is a real grower and that underneath the harsh exterior this is a smart, intricately structured pop song. Hannah writes and plays music which is not trapped in a narrow genre; on the basis of these two tracks the EP should be an intriguing listen.

Hannah Rose Kessler | Facebook

Record label – Reckless Yes

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YNES : Better Job, single released 12 February 2021

With roots in Canada and Coventry, singer/songwriter YNES tells it direct. Her 2020 EP ‘Sit Down, Grow up’ featured the minimalist music supporting a flow of lyrical ideas in the less than two minute delight of ‘Im(Mature)’. The inverted relationship song ‘Pretty Sure’ has the words accumulate and build to a restrained frenzy of bitterness, ‘….I’m pretty sure she’s not the one that broke my heart…..that girl is not my enemy today….’ then moves into the likeable ennui of ‘All I Do(Dream of You)’ where ‘….all I do is sit around and wait for you….’

New single ‘Better Job’ takes inspiration from the ill-judged government campaign to reject lifetime training and ambition in creative industries to become something more ‘useful’ to society. YNES turns this into a loose and noisy tirade, where the music can barely keep pace with her exhausting streams of words and ideas.

Punk poet, performance artist, art rocker – YNES hits the spot.

https://www.facebook.com/ynesmusic/

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Harriet Rose : Love Me Like That, single released 5 February 2021

The UK Country/Americana scene continues to flourish, with performers like singer/songwriter Harriet Rose in the vanguard. Her previous single ‘Small Town Chains’ was a positive, rousing anthem – a re-assertion of one of the standard themes of country music; leaving the limitations of hometown roots in pursuit of musical ambition. The confident performance with the storyline brought to life in the accompanying video was a convincing debut.

On her excellent new release ‘Love Me Like That’ Harriet has slowed the pace – with the delicate opening setting the framework of the song ‘…sitting in another bar, waiting for it all to close…knowing that you’re out with her…’. The acoustic guitar is joined by a quietly played banjo and the music moves in and out of an almost full band sound.

It is a sombre song, edged with melancholy and questioning ‘….was there something that I could have done?….’. The carefully placed lines continue to build up in layers, overlapping through the loose melodic structure, as does the varied instrumental backing. Harriet’s plaintive, tender vocal lays the emotion out for all to hear, given a break by a short guitar solo before the song quietens again to make the regrets and emotions of the lyrics crystal clear.

Harriet Rose – Official Website (harrietrosemusic.com)

12 Highlights From 2020 : A Sampler Of The Year. | cambridgemusicreviews

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Scatter : Disappear, EP released February 2021

A new four track EP from Scatter, the recording name for Stockholm based musician Erik Bergqvist (also part of Victorian Tin and Schaum).

1.Disappear. The mellow title piece features echoing electric piano with a late-night pace and a verse that takes its time to build up to the cryptic phrase ‘….gravity’s the same or slightly weakened thanks to old champagne….’, but there is less ambiguity about the key lines ‘…..and you’re gone so I might just also disappear….’. The whole track is framed with melancholy; reminiscent of some of the bleaker tones of the eighties UK charts where the pop gems emerged triumphantly from the music scenes of declining industrial towns.

2.Eyes Shut Down. Now sink into this track, a waltzing meditation on love and loss that seems to roll across a natural landscape filmed in black and white. A cello sound and brief guitar solo breaks through the mix but it is the soothing rhythm of the acoustic guitar that gently dominates.

3.Forgetfulness. This is an EP of textural variety, on probably my favourite song the fully electronic backing moves along animatedly as Erik’s vocal adds the emotional naturalism. It is akin to Mark Hollis’s velvet tones on tracks by atmospheric-electro pioneers Talk Talk.

4.The Seventh Stranger. A loosely structured melodic ballad; roving fretless bass, acoustic and electric piano and guitar, found voices and a double vocal weaving around to form an immersive five minutes.

Everlasting Records | Facebook

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Nervous Twitch : Nervous Twitch, LP released 29 January 2021

Straight in with the blistering ‘Count Your Blessings’, Leeds three-piece Nervous Twitch deliver a collection of roughly-cut pop diamonds on their excellent fourth album. Definitely a formidable live band; their recordings distil the essence of the energy from a stage performance.

I especially like the casual indifference of ‘Tongue Tied’, ‘….I’ve always got so much to say but I can’t always use it….’, tempered by the classic punk chorus. ‘A Bag For Life’ builds a chanting song around single line bass and guitar (reminding me of the spiky dance sounds of Shopping), then ‘Not Everyone’s Out To Get Me’ is a fuzzy and effervescent anthem.

A tasty synth riff joins the party for previously released ‘Keeping Faith In Something’, featuring one of Erin’s best vocals and ‘Alright Lads’ is a compact and sharply structured Ramones homage, readily acknowledged by the trio as a great influence. The calculated lyrical dismissal of ‘Boredom and Dissatisfaction’ hangs around a reassuring set of chord changes as does the darker anti-vocal of ‘The Way That I Feel’.

‘Fickle You’ ends the LP with a garage tune that is the constant in an ever changing musical battleground, demonstrating perfectly how after four albums Erin, Jay and Ashley have honed their addictive sound to cut this fine set of twelve tracks.

Nervous Twitch | Facebook

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Nervous Twitch : Keeping Faith In Something, single released October 2020 | cambridgemusicreviews

Gia Margaret : Solid Heart, single released January 2021

Timeless and placeless, ‘Solid Heart’ is a gentle meditation appropriate to a season of cold and consideration, with some hints of optimism too. Chicago based singer/instrumentalist/producer Gia Margaret has taken a straightforward chord sequence, added electronics and piano embellishments and a voice that is hardly there; almost ghostly but still able to drive the song along. The overall effect is calmly breath-taking.

Gia describes her music as ‘sleep rock’ and on previous release ‘Barely There’ the atonal synth background joined with a spoken vocal to create an emotionally rich soundscape; on her other 2020 single ‘apathy’ hypnotic arpeggios threaded their way through dreamier territory with no horizon in sight. This was paired with ‘body’, a sampled lecture on physical self-awareness that raised more questions than answers, as the electronic sequencing danced along, beguiling and rewarding.

Gia Margaret | Facebook

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