Author Archives: iknoweno

Three Singles, released Spring 2020.

Ward Thomas – Hold Space

‘Hold Space’ is a new song from UK country-pop duo Ward Thomas, building on the reputation of their acclaimed 2019 ‘Restless Minds’ album and it will be included on a forthcoming EP.
It is a well balanced union of a melody that holds the song without over-elaborate instrumentation and of course features the sisters’ sparkling harmonies. A straightforward lyric makes the point very effectively as as it describes how to be there for someone who may be struggling emotionally. They recently supported James Blunt on his UK Arena Tour which probably opened up a whole new audience but I think I preferred seeing them headlining a stunning sellout show in the intimate setting of the Cambridge Junction last March.
The duo have now rescheduled their acoustic tour for September this year.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/03/03/ward-thomas-junction-cambridge-1-march-2019/

NZCA Lines – Real Good Time

NZCA Lines is a London based electronic duo who I first heard when they released a lush bit of synth-pop and nearly hit called ‘Two Hearts’ in 2015. As I often do I was initially attracted by the band name, inspired by the giant animal patterns in the Peruvian desert only visible from the air. This new track ‘Real Good Time’ features on an album ‘Pure Luxury’ due in July; this time the keyboards and beat have been simultaneously pumped up then unravelled as well as featuring unpredictability in the vocal sounds. The influence of some of the looser party-groove tracks by Prince weaves its way through too; it is a winning combination of out-there funk and elegant electrics.

https://www.nzca-lines.com/

Molly & The Moon – Rise

‘Rise’ is another super single from folk-country four-piece Molly & The Moon, a follow-up to heartbreaking ballad ‘Cold Is The Night’.
This song is very much an anthem of positivity, probably it would be perfectly placed as a finale to a live set (when those days come again…). Driven throughout by a pulsing rhythm guitar over a recurring and reassuring bass the lyrics refer to the inevitable passing of time ‘….can’t stop the sun from falling over the edge of the horizon…‘ but counteracted by the optimism ‘…as the sun will rise once more…‘. With extra band harmonies, the rich tones of keyboard and the continuing subtle but complex percussion pattern ‘Rise’ builds nicely to the grand final chorus – showing that there is plenty going on instrumentally in this song to add to Molly’s excellent vocal performance.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

Various Artists : Now That’s What I Call The Portland, LP released May 2020

A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).

1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.

2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.

3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.

4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.

5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.

6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.

7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.

8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.

9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.

10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.

11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.

12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.

13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.

14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.

15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.

16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.

17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.

https://theportlandarms.bandcamp.com/album/now-thats-what-i-call-the-portland
http://www.theportlandarms.co.uk

Three Singles, released April/May 2020

Lucy Gaffney – ‘Can’t Escape’

‘Can’t Escape’ is the debut solo single by Lucy Gaffney, a singer songwriter from Belfast, now based in Liverpool. She has been in other bands including a duo called MMODE with her brother and she has worked with The Coral. This is a smooth piece of dream pop, with one of those ‘War On Drugs’ type verses – a sort of two chord road movie sound and then goes into a biggish chorus which sticks in your head. The voice sounds full and rich and yet blends and blurs into the mix of this perfectly structured pop song.

https://www.facebook.com/LucyGaffneymusic/


Smoke Fairies – ‘No Matter How This Goes, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’


Smoke Fairies
are excellent live performers and they manage to transfer the dark atmospheres of their songs onto recordings too. I can highly recommend their last album ‘Darkness Brings the Wonders home’ and this track ‘No Matter How This Goes’, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’ was recorded at the same time, and given its high quality and prescience perhaps surprisingly left off the LP, but the band have since explained that they didn’t think it suited the mood of the rest of the tracks.
They are essentially a duo, this quote from Pitchfork magazine describes them as follows ‘…..Blamire and Davies don’t trade vocal duties so much as appear to sing from the same body, their voices nearly indistinguishable, shifting between smoky moans and toe-curling trills…’.
I’m not so sure; I think the two voices subtly differ and contrast but the harmonies are definitely from another world. Look out for their home online performances, most recently raising money for the RSPCA.

https://www.facebook.com/SmokeFairies/

Moscoman feat.Tom Sanders – What Do We Care

This is three mixes of ‘What Do We Care’ by Moscoman, who is a producer and DJ specialising in ‘raw and rugged machine disco, acid, melodic techno, wonky house and dark disco’. He also crosses over into some surprising alternative territories and has his second album released on UK indie label Moshi Moshi later this year. After the sparse 80s keys of the introduction, this song features distinctive vocals from Tom Sanders of Teleman, one of my favourite live and studio bands that I have reviewed many times before. The track is probably a bit more clinically electronic and detached than Teleman’s more organic work but it is definitely worth several listens.

https://www.facebook.com/moscoman/

The New Fools : Mershmellow, LP released April 2020

The second album from Cambridge-based band The New Fools; again it is a mixture of styles, textures and well-crafted song writing.

1. London ’66.
A melancholy waltz to open the collection, swirling acoustic guitar and plaintive piano for a biting lyric ‘….winter ’66, a cold London street disturbed from its dream by the sound of a woman’s scream…’

2. The House of (Having) Fun. A Northern Soul stomper, the lyric celebrating nothing specific ‘…and I feel like a mystical man selling dreams from the back of a van….’ but acting as the glue for a perfect pop song structure.

3. Summer Rain. The pace of the band drives this mini road movie along, the meditative recollections of the vocals drifting above the rhythm guitar, organ and spirited drumming. ‘…autumn leaves fall from the trees…settling around my feet…sweet memories…’

4. The Story 0f Me.
40 years of biography in three and a half minutes, the waltzing carousel sound given extra emotional resonance by guest folk-infused violin, a brilliant counter to the disappointment expressed in the words, ‘…now I’m 50 years old I can hardly breathe for the weight of the guilt and the shame that surrounds me…move on will you please there’s nothing to see….’

5. Model Village. This could be a diversion for the character in track 4, spending many hours building a model village as a metaphor for escape. It solves nothing, after all ‘…what you gonna do when the rain comes…what you gonna do if it pours….pick up the pieces and start all over again…’. The band don’t let up in their intensity until a sombre coda that fades into birdsong.

6. Something About Jane. Suspicions about the breakdown of a relationship infuses the pounding rock momentum with a paranoia from the narrator. Another viewpoint is presented in a surprising reggae section, before the doubts re-establish.

7. John Candy Talking. A strident punchy anthem that musically unlocks a bit of REM and glam rock in memory of a largely forgotten cult actor as a metaphor for emotional confusion ‘….I’m going round in circles without you…I can’t help the way I’m feeling….the modern world is not forgiving…’. This track was pre-released as a single earlier in the year.

8. I Got on a Train. I’m not sure that the railway ticketing system allows for the random sense of escape that this track inspires ‘….I got on a train don’t know where it’s heading…anywhere is fine…I got nowhere to run but I’ve a ticket to ride…’ but it is a thoughtful and well-judged finale to this richly creative album.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Molly-Anne : California Calling, EP released April 2020

An EP that collects together earlier solo work by Gloucestershire based singer and songwriter Molly-Anne, predating her new band Molly & The Moon. Fusing elements of folk, country and storytelling, these well-crafted songs are uplifted even further by Molly’s top-quality vocals.

1. A San Francisco Story. Starting with just percussive guitar chords and the pure voice this opening track is described by Molly as a live favourite that tells its own story ‘….it was a quarter to eight down by the Golden Gate….I lost my heart in San Francisco…we didn’t care and we wore flowers in our hair…’ The amalgam of real or imagined imagery works a treat and the band rise to the occasion as they gradually join in.

2. Horizon.
A wistful recollection of a past relationship, the narrator looking at the horizon and still hoping in the anthemic chorus ‘…come and find me where the ocean meets the sky…’

3. California Calling. The biggest chorus on the EP is bookended by gorgeous folk stylings in the vocals of the delicate verses. A guitar solo and organ fills out the sound before the celebratory full harmonies at the end.

4. Bristol Boy. Contemplation of a summer romance inspires vivid memories ‘…we’re running over Clifton Common searching for the sun…’, with a hint of melancholy as ‘…times like those keep me reminiscing…’. The song rushes along with urgency, as unfortunately the time passes all too quickly.

5. The Lakes. Alternating between the reverie of the verses and the majestic chorus this is another thoughtful anthem with luminous lyrical reflections ‘….and now the winter’s here and you keep the frost at my door….’. The final minute and a half of instrumental and vocal build-up is a brilliant finale to the EP.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

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Charmpit : Cause a Stir, LP released April 2020

After single releases and sparkling live shows since 2017, ‘Cause a Stir’, the long awaited album from London-based indiepop quartet Charmpit finally arrives.

Celebratory and self-referential band formation song ‘Do It Together (First Timers)’ opens the collection, the calm intro soon noises-up then it is straight into excellent prereleased track ‘Bridges Go Burn’ with its tangled relationship descriptions.

The four-piece adeptly change time, tone and tempo and the double vocals overlap and interplay on ‘Jimnastics’ and the multi-sectioned ‘Sophomore Year’. The subtle and lovingly direct ‘Kissing You’ is an attractively sweet concoction and a highlight for all of its one minute twenty. ‘Wild Wild Westfield’ ambiguously salutes the shopping mall with a classic pop structure and a guitar line and chorus that drives the song along. ‘Muffy Plays Poker’ is compact yet anthemic and features a surprise lead guitar solo.

And much, much more, including the ominous sixties sounding chords that introduce the hairdressing as metaphor homage ‘Dyed and Gone to Hairven’ and the gently jazzy final track ‘Baby Needs a Breeze’, another gorgeous summery sound with the lingering images ‘….you’re a diamond, you’re a pearl…’.

The musical and lyrical ideas flow addictively and unstoppably on this succinctly brilliant set of songs…

https://www.facebook.com/charmpit
https://specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk/

GodNo! : Hulk, single released 3 April 2020

Combining elements of art and math rock the debut single from indie supergroup GodNo! (featuring members of Grawl!x, Pet Crow, Cable, Merrick’s Tusk) was the dissonant ‘Unholy Water’ with its tight, spiky anger loping between a main riff of two chords underneath a sinister double vocal describing the psychoactive effects of alcohol. The satisfying total onslaught sounded like it could fit into an electric version of Brecht/Weill’s ahead-of-their times 1930s theatre songs.

The new track ‘Hulk’ begins slightly lighter, with just drums and sparse guitar before a raw bass joins the party. This instrumental power frames an excellent disconnected vocal from Shelley Jane, with a gradually building level of intensity and tension ‘…. when what I get is the minimum that I expect….’ soon exploding into the searing guitar-led sensational chorus ‘…and being nice won’t save you….my strength is growing all the time…‘.
There are a couple of short instrumental bars but the rhythm guitar continues unrelentingly as the vocal phrases become more dominant, brittle and in the end unhinged ‘…I don’t say sorry for what I do…. I could be nice this is the choice….’ before a final link into the dark but catchy chorus.

This duo of blistering singles should be joined by more releases later this year…

https://www.facebook.com/GodNoBand/
https://recklessyes.com/