Derby based four-piece Pet Crow release a follow up to their 2017 debut long-player ‘A Simple Guide to Small and Medium Pond Life’ and the punching intro to opener ‘Limbo’ is a clear statement of intent. As on all of their tracks the band seem to extract depth and endless variety from the conventional bass/guitar/drums line-up as Danielle’s vocals soar and echo above.
Favourite track of mine and forthcoming single, the lively ‘Insomnia’ is B-52’s in full garage mode, with some of the busiest drumming on the album. ‘NOCD’ is a relentless groove with atmospheric guitar adornments and bass way up in the mix. ‘What We Doin’?’ maintains the power output level with an insistent chorus and unpredictable changes of pace.
‘One Whole Summer’ is a celebratory and creative three minutes with the drum kit flayed until it sounds like it is being thrown down the stairs and features the haunting refrain ‘….we can stay up all night…and the next day is a mess…’. ‘Controlling’ has some sparser passages and strange effects with a playful vocal driving the song. Title cut ‘Take The Edge Off’ is a sub two minute punk burst mainly built around the title phrase and still there are three more tracks to discover (including a surprise appearance of a frantic saxophone on ‘Scars’).
The album features excellent production, successfully capturing a ‘live’ sound – I was lucky enough to see them performing last year when they played a memorable standout set at the Leicester Indiepop half-dayer.
First recorded as a solo acoustic ballad in 2019 by folk country singer and composer Molly-Anne this stunning new version has reimagined and expanded the original and now stands as the first release from the new band Molly & The Moon.
Reassuringly the track has retained the subtlety and understatement; set to a gentle waltz time it is a simple expression of missing a loved one ‘…I think that I love you too much…you’d break my heart if you never came back…’ resolving into the perfectly balanced three-part harmony chorus, ‘….cold is the night without you here….the pain of my heartache as wild as the sea…I hope the wind blows you back to me….’.
The production and performance is relaxed and mellow – with the rich but delicate lead vocal hinting at the depth of emotion beneath the surface.
This new band line-up features acoustic bass, guitar, banjo and cajón and is featured in an atmospheric video recorded at a 10th Century Saxon Barn in Gloucestershire, an appropriately timeless and classic setting for this gorgeous song.
(Molly & The Moon can be seen at the charity Frameshifter II Festival on 21st March, tickets available here )
The striking Love Hearts sweets artwork heralds a new single from Derby-based musician/performer/producer Emzae, a follow up to the contrasting ‘As This Day Fades To Another’ and ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ from last year.
Like all of her recorded work this new track is immaculately constructed, with the combination of lyric and music beguiling and inviting the listener in. Reflecting the sentiment of the title, Emzae’s vocal kicks in at the one second mark and then it is all action for the brief duration of the track as it packs in verses, spoken word, bridges and a double chorus ‘….if we get into it you have to be sure, don’t wanna be restless no more….’ and of course ‘…we don’t wanna waste our time…’.
The phrases roll over each other as the voices take on different characteristics; the brilliance of this song is that all of this meshes together so effectively, expressing the fun and urgency of a possible relationship.
This lyrical dance takes place over some sharp and sparse electronic beats, percussion interruptions and possibly an acoustic piano in there too, all adding up to a sparkling two minutes.
A new solo EP from JEDRIK, the singer from Cambridge pioneering dreampop trio Carolyns Fingers, who appeared on the scene in 2017 with some choice live shows and single releases. These four exquisitely crafted tracks blend electronic sounds and voice creating something very special…
1. Unfettered. Sung random-ish phrases roll over each other as a classically influenced chord sequence and bass move sedately on. It is an outpouring of emotion and love; uplifting, celebratory and fun ‘.…so happy I feel I don’t weigh anything at all….’ and winningly ‘… I’m a pair of trousers shy from true paradise….’
2. More Drreamscape. The bass keys and pure vocal start this off as a contemporary pop song but the foreboding atmosphere builds with insistent guitar notes and percussion until the track changes direction and becomes more of the dream of the title. Conjuring that half-awake drifting in and out of consciousness feeling other treated voices intrude, but the chorus dominates towards the end before a sinister coda unsettles the listener…
3. Seamsplitter. Structurally ambitious and ambiguous, this one is built around a descending guitar riff and features an addictive mix of claustrophobic beats and lyrical fragments. The turmoil of the music echoes the aspirations and feelings that don’t go as planned ‘….you say you’ll make me whole….’
4. Special. My favourite on the EP, a lo-fi gem of gentle percussion, low register guitar and a sultry, slinking melody beautifully sung. The chorus hooks will stay in your head ‘….what can I do to be someone you always find special…’
A welcome and wistful mix of melancholy and fun on the new album from Glasgow indie song-crafters The Just Joans, maintaining the high standard since their formation in 2005. Before you even listen to the songs the titles tell a story…
1. Hey Ho, Let’s Not Go A burst of brass is used to counteract the ennui as we become more reluctant to make the effort to have a night out when ‘…I’d rather get a takeaway…I’d rather get an early night….’. There is still a regret in the playout, ‘…when we were young we took the bus to town…’
2. Who Does Susan Think She Is? This one rolls along nicely and as in many of the tracks it is a wistful tale of life moving on and the inevitable leavings behind. Great piano solo!
3. Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung) A pre-released single; an instrumentally upbeat and succinct commentary on some of the probable mundane reasons for knife crime.
4. Dear Diary, I Died Again Today Katie Pope delivers a touching vocal performance, backed by a string quartet and featuring the memorable couplet ‘…a comment so inept, Frank Spencer would have wept…’
5. My Undying Love For You Is Beginning To Die Definitely one of many highlight of the album, lo-fi synth and percussion for David Pope’s sad reminiscence ‘….once upon a time long gone you held me in your thrall…but now I find I’m less inclined to bother much at all….’. It sort of resolves with the twist of ‘…perhaps that’s why you left two years ago with your new beau…’
6. When Nietzsche Calls A sombre mood pervades this one, but the affecting vocal and distant strings still wins you over.
7. The Older I Get, The More I Don’t Know Opening with ‘…the past has passed me…..the future’s ghastly….’ the song sounds more optimistic than it should be as the driving rhythm section pushes it along.
8. The One I Loathe The Least Lyrically, musically and in the vocal performances this is another big highlight. All together now! ‘….when everyone’s subhuman scum…it’s hard to find some peace…thank heavens I found you…the one I loathe the least…’
9. Another Doomed Relationship Sounding like an early poppy Depeche Mode single the synths are back for this mini-masterpiece, the narrator knowing that even as ‘…we dream of true love…but the outcome’s the same…..’ that still ‘…. we cling on by our fingertips…’ and ultimately ‘…it’s the hope that kills you…’
10. Holiday Acknowledging the musical influence of Blur in the lyric for this song, this one really hits the sad reality ‘…two weeks in the sun but then you come back and it’s all the same…and you’ve got twelve months to count down again…’
11. People I Once Knew The strange compulsion to retread the past that started with website ‘FriendsReunited’ set to a sinister clock ticking beat ‘….I’m quite content with my life and how it went…so, why do they call to me? that strange menagerie…’
12. Like Yesterday Again A dark coda to the album; lyrically sparse with lush but lo-fi orchestration ‘…in this room there’s no view…all there is are memories of you…’. A thoughtful ending to a brilliant album.
The city of Norwich is full of historic churches; this church of St Swithin was converted into an Arts Centre in 1980 and won the NME award for best small venue in Britain in 2014. It was the perfect venue for the gothic-folk of Smoke Fairies.
Accompanied by a drummer (and later to join the headliners on bass), John J Presley lets his guitar, bottleneck and deep-toned voice bring the audience into his world. With an echoing guitar sound straining and distorting, his songs use dark riffs on the lower strings on ‘Dance with Me’ and delve into murky blues for ‘On a Sunday’. ‘Left’ was a faster pop-like stomp and I found that the final song ‘Riders’ was a concise movie soundtrack lingering powerfully into the memory.
Smoke Fairies have a very new album out evocatively titled ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’ and that formed the core of their set tonight, brought to life by the atmospheric guitar playing and magical dual voices of Jessica and Katherine. Opener ‘Super Tremolo’ has a tense, urgent structure and immediately all the elements are in place, a firm foundation from bass and drums as the guitars intertwine lines that fade in and out and the double line of vocals power through but float above the song.
Like a dark medieval folk song ‘Out Of The Woods’ is a definite highlight, the melody sounds like it is coming at you through the silvery trees and the harmonies in the chorus are otherworldly and sublime. Older songs such as ‘Summer Fades’ and ‘After The Rain’ from their first LP show how the band has developed to embrace different styles. ‘Left To Roll’ was the slow-burning emotional centrepiece of the show and the paranoid dream of ‘Elevator’ is built round a fuzzy, sinister chord sequence.
The encore featured the dense, complex ‘Feel It Coming Near’ and finally another new highlight, the rocking ‘Chocolate Rabbit’ (‘….you’re hollow inside, you leave me unsatisfied…’)
This is one of my favourite venues and Smoke Fairies are a band who can effortlessly weave their music into the fabric of this ancient building, as their majestic harmonies float up into the vaulted roof…
The new EP from Fightmilk singer/guitarist/composer Lily Rae performing as Captain Handsome arrives and according to Bandcamp is tagged as ‘pop, bedroom pop, country gloom pop, indie, lo-fi, pop revenge, country, sad pop’. All of this and more, it is a sublime and potent mix….
1. I Wish I Had a Dog. Detailed review of this first single at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/11/20/captain-handsome-i-wish-i-had-a-dog-single-released-november-2019/
2. Annalise. For this excellent track the narrator and the Annalise of the title seem to blend and separate in a tale of infidelity and disappointment, a sort of murder-ballad atmosphere with no specific crime. The sentiments are ambiguous ‘…..I carve his name into the trees….he gives me something to believe…..I paint his name his name across the walls he’ll be the ruin of us all….’
The melancholy chords resolve into something more positive for the chorus as the tragi-country rock pushes on, while underneath some mournful strings stalk the lyric. A violin solo finally emerges near the end as the song finishes with ‘…Annalise had a secret…’ and we are none the wiser?
3. Dolly Parton. A slower, introspective track as cymbals roll in and out and the sparse electric guitar is a platform for Lily’s raw and emotional vocal. It is all a bit sad, but there is still a glimmer of optimism in the haunting chorus ‘…there’s no point in being broken hearted…just pretend that you’re Dolly Parton….’
4. Halloween. The second preview single may initially recall the glorious Fightmilk song ‘Pity Party’ but the Halloween event described is a much darker affair for the narrator. There are many impressionistic phrases that help to evoke the mood ‘…..I felt my voice turn into vapour….everyone’s a diving board to nowhere….’ along with a shimmering but sinister violin build-up. The gentle guitar and poignant words make this a thoughtful and powerful song.
5. I Am Not An Animal. Initially delicately accompanied by a lone guitar this bookend to the EP moves from heartfelt plea to bitterness, expressed in the lyrics and by the crescendos from the band (driven by some spirited drumming!).
With words and music contributing equally, many of the elements and themes from the collection are distilled into this one song, probably my favourite track of the five.