Category Archives: Music

Eilis Frawley : Intellectual Men, single released January 2019

Based in Berlin, Eilis Frawley uses drums, percussion and electronics as soundboards for her spoken words.
Released in 2019, ‘Illusions’ delivers a humdrum diary of existence over a tense drum pattern, dramatically coloured by staccato bursts and an ominous keyboard sequence. The follow-up ‘Strangers’ features a more uncomfortable and spiky rhythm as a narrated relationship swiftly shifts into decline. The synthesiser figure is deceptively cheerful but the words are not very optimistic, ‘…we used to be members of the same team….our joyful past blurred by our current disconnect….will we last?…’

Current single ‘Intellectual Men’ opens with bass electronic tones and an excellent percussion and drum work-out, saving the words for the second half of the track. The musings of the lyric are subtle and caustic ‘…these intellectual clever engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses…..want to argue just for fun…’ and drives the point home.
As Eilis concisely sets out the words, the fiery drums cut inbetween, their dissonance and anger underlining the disconnected emotion.

These three tracks will form the core of an upcoming EP ‘Never Too Emotional’, to be released on the label Reckless Yes Records, fast becoming a haven for bold, fun, original and constantly challenging musicians.

https://www.eilisfrawleydrums.com/
http://recklessyes.com/

Short Cuts : Three albums from 2019 that deserve another listen….

The Paranoyds – Carnage Bargain, LP released September 2019

The long awaited new LP from Los Angeles four-piece The Paranoyds kicks off with the emergency siren guitar of single ‘Face First’; a dual chord relentless roaring beneath the careless yearning of the vocal. Straight into the super-deep bass of ‘Carnage Bargain’ – with the voice alternating each phrase with an instrumental line and big chorus it is a near-perfect pop song.
‘Girlfriend Degree’ builds on the riff from the Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night with an excellent empowered anthem. My current favourite track is the blast of ‘Egg Salad’; it could be a tuneful song by The Fall. High praise indeed.
After that incredible four track opening the longer ‘Bear’ wanders a bit but ‘Hungry Sam’ restores the tautness and edge, also raising the organ in the mix to great effect, especially in the playout. ‘Courtney’ is a change in direction, a surreal swirling carousel of psych-pop with harmony vocals.
‘Laundry ‘ lasts just over a minute with the literal B-52s ish chorus ‘…I’m doing laundry…’ , leading into the similar ‘Heather Doubtfire’, a strident and noisy many-sectioned opus, with extra energy drumming and a spooky keyboard/guitar outro.
Another favourite for me is finale track ‘Ratboy’, it has the frenzy and psychedelic atmosphere of the faster Doors songs but I could be being hypnotised by the prevalent keys, including an ominously building solo at the end…
The quartet describe their sound as a ‘…sonic balance of jubilant energy and foreboding undercurrents….’ which is a good way of reflecting in the music their explanation of the band name ‘….What isn’t there to be paranoyd about?….’.

https://theparanoyds.bandcamp.com

 

Jade Imagine – Basic Love, LP released August 2019

After a tantalising three preview singles Jade Imagine finally release their new album, featuring the thoughtful world-view from Melbourne based singer/songwriter Jade McInally.
Basic Love is a varied collection of styles and ideas brought to life by two guitarists, drums and bass with some synthesiser textures; all analogue instruments for a sensation of warmth and authenticity. This is very evident in opening standout track ‘Gonna Do Nothing’, a meditation on drifting and boredom in a personal and existential sense, always leading to the concluding resignation of the title phrase. The dreamy production casts a sheen over an insistent guitar groove with the bass and drums threatening to overtake all in the end.
The triumphant trio of singles follow; ‘The News’ is as good a summation of our current political and media turmoil that you could expect to hear, ‘Big Old House’ is a seemingly effortless piece of pop built around a simple and very effective drum pattern, and ‘Remote Control’ invites some 80s synth to the party. All good so far, those four would be a top quality EP but this is a proper album with much more to come.
‘I’ll Take You There’ is an expansive and evocative six minutes of atmosphere, with that simultaneous closeness and distance from the listener that The War On Drugs achieve on their best tracks.
‘The Weekend’ is a dark inverse-celebration of time away from work, weaved through with melancholy and realism. A plaintive guitar solo line duels with the vocal at the end. ‘Cut Me Off’ is also delving into dark feelings, with the band in a blurry Cure mode while I particularly like the barely-there guitar lines, bass pedals and sparse drum interjections underneath the soulful vocal in ‘Past Life’.
The final two songs have a mellow, late-night feel (including a saxaphone appearing from nowhere!) memorably concluding this many-layered and rewarding album.

https://www.jadeimagine.com/

Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place, LP released May 2019

Tacocat release their 4th album ‘This Mess Is A Place’, their first since 2016’s ‘Lost Time’. The LP opens with single ‘Hologram’, a winning and reassuring combination of outsider observations and spiky guitar slices, metronomic drumming and a killer chorus with the reminder ‘….how small are you?…’ when considering the bigger issues of relationships, space and time…
‘New World’ has a great bass driven riff as the drums let loose and a wryly optimistic lyric brings a smile ‘…new world, new shining planet, confetti raining from the sky….’. There is the surreal touch and sentiment of some of Talking Heads later songs to be found here.
‘Grains Of Salt’ was another taster single release for this collection, a funkier groove with a sparkling chorus delivered with style by vocalist Emily Nokes. The wall-of-sound verses of ‘The Joke Of Life’ smoothly drop into a sixties chart-pop chorus as you realise that lyrically there is so much to process and absorb on these superbly structured songs. ‘Little Friend’ jangles along sweetly until hijacked by a suprisingly heavy chorus and slightly sinister middle eight.
And there is much , much more; there are many choruses to be uplifted by and neat words to spot and ponder like ‘…. I saw you in a crystal ball and you were upside down….’. The band are on top form, brilliantly showcased by an energetic, sharp production quality and I can imagine many tracks such as the sparse economy of ‘The Problem’ being a blast of energy on stage.
The final track is the anthemic waltz of ‘Miles And Miles’, a haunting melody and hypnotic swirl of sound which brings this excellent collection to a distinctive end.

https://www.facebook.com/tacocatband

 

James Brute : Lost Soul Music, EP released January 2020

A track by track review of ‘Lost Soul Music’ from James Brute, the long awaited follow-up to 2014’s macabre percussion and vocal single ‘Bury Yourself’.

1. Again-Again A stately but sinister blues guitar riff marches through the mix marking time like a giant swinging pendulum blade. The desperate vocals from James are a match for this moody music from the five-piece band, especially when the chorus bursts into life.

2. Here She Comes At nearly eight minutes this movie soundscape takes plenty of time to build the atmosphere and when the opening lines finally arrive ‘…I feel like Don Quixote…taking on the windmills in my mind…’ memories of the two albums by previous band The Brute Chorus are evoked with their lyrical density and plethora of references.
Like the classic desert horizon movie scene in Lawrence Of Arabia it is all in the anticipation of the arrival of the enigmatic figure and the gradually building power of the instrumentation.
With impressionistic phrases ‘….she swims among the fishes, she feeds me figs and dates and oranges and plums…..’ and the barely contained fireworks of the band and voice this is a spectacular track.

3. Danielle Opening with a gentle guitar figure and subtle cymbal percussion this meditation revolves around another mysterious character, the quasi-biblical Danielle, ‘….welcome back again, this is the lion’s den you’re walking in….while the others are asleep pull the thorns out of my feet and lead me away….’. It may end well ‘….I think this must be love but I’ve been wrong before….’ but the ominous bursts from the band indicate a darker future…?

4. Archaeologist Blues
This loose, strolling blues is a vocal tour de force, packed full of imagery and ideas, namechecking cultural touchstones ‘….Time Team and Indiana Jones….‘ along with some sharp one-liners ‘….I’ve traded honey for a bee sting….‘ always leading to the haunting hookline ‘….give me one second I will try to reveal it….‘.
The band are given a real chance to shine around a guitar solo in the second part of the song before the vocal finishes abruptly, bringing this excellent EP to an end.

https://jamesbrute.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/01/20/recommendation-brute-chorusjames-brute/

Emily Frith : Open Book, EP released January 2020

1. Better In the introduction the vocal and sparse instrumental backing draws us in, before the band fully kicks off on this strong opener. Alternating between the big chorus and back to the quieter moments this is a well-structured song, with a lyric of overcoming adversity ‘…now you’re standing your ground you can’t be torn down…everything that hurt you made you better….’ finally pivoting around a neat middle-eight with the clear statement of hope ‘….and I know rain comes on the sunny days…but it makes your favourite flowers grow…’.

2. Out This is an EP of variety, drawing on pop, poetry and folk influences and here on this track the simple piano accompaniment is infused with the melancholic optimism of the best country music, as a plaintive verse resolves into the positive longing of the chorus. ‘…if life’s an adventure, I wanna go with you…if you’ve got your worries, I’ve got mine too….as long as we’re together, we’ll figure it out……if life’s an adventure, let’s go, go, go out….’.

3. Giving Up on Love The brooding rock background underlines a lyric of the narrator’s emotional questioning and turmoil. The sharp rhythm of drumbeat and electric guitar of the verse escalates into the full-on chorus ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing wrong, but the guys I like end up in all my songs…’ and ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing right…’ ; the only answer seems to be the title phrase. The middle eight is a bit bleak too ‘…once you’re a cheater you’re always a cheater..’ but despite the downbeat sentiments this is still a powerful and involving song.

4. The Blue Currently my favourite on the EP, this is a rolling up-tempo country gem. Like many of the songs in the genre it is about leaving, travelling and arriving as a metaphor for a relationship. With the spirited vocal and relaxed but pacy backing this track must be a highlight in any live set.

5. Want to Love The other four songs have already been singles but this thoughtful piece is a new addition to Emily’s catalogue. Driven by an impressionistic melody and loose instrumentation featuring acoustic and slide guitar the mood is unhurried and mellow. The sentiments of the lyric are delivered with conviction and heartfelt emotion as this excellent EP fades away into the ether.

https://www.facebook.com/emilyfrithmusic/

12 Highlights From 2019 : A Sampler Of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums, singles and Cambridge shows of 2019…

1. Sleaford Mods: Into The Payzone
Opening salvo for their storming Junction set; minimalist, wry and addictive.

2. Ward Thomas: Hopeless
Alt-country harmonies first heard at an instore appearance then in a superb show at the Junction.

3. Luke James Williams: Still in Bed
From 2018, but with steadily gathering airplay and compilation appearances this is still an emotional tour de force.

4. Hydra Lerna: In the Dark
Strong and perfectly crafted single from Norwich multi-talented electropop performer, making her live debut in Cambridge.

5. Billy Bragg: A13, Trunk Road to the Sea
After many BB performances I have finally heard this favourite live!

6. Captain Handsome: I Wish I Had a Dog
Lily from Fightmilk releases an excellent solo single – thoughtful but playful, tense but catchy.

7. Big Joanie: Used To Be Friends
Passion, politics and sharp tunes at the Portland Arms. (Enjoyed support Sink Ya Teeth too!)

8. Robyn Hitchcock: The Speed Of Things
Another fine song from the intricate Hitchcock canon and as always a brilliant live show.

9. Molly-Anne: Cold Is the Night
Chance discovery of this acoustic gem from Gloucestershire folk-country rising star.

10. Caswell: Surface
Classy upbeat single from this dynamic live performer and skilled songwriter.

11. The Tuts: Let Go of the Past
Cambridge debut from energetic indie trio, electrifying the show in a Corn Exchange double bill with The Specials.

12. Jeremy Tuplin: Humans
This elaborate and engrossing single with famous people name-checks was a highlight of his art-folk album which was brought to gentle life at his Blue Moon show.

The New Fools, Relevant Records, Cambridge, 20 December 2019

From the opening in 2014, Relevant Records in Cambridge’s Mill Road has been the perfect combination of relaxing coffee shop and a basement full of new and old vinyl. Live music has regularly featured too, sometimes amongst the records but now more often in the larger area upstairs.

Arriving late I unfortunately missed support Karalinga but after some seasonal sing-alongs Cambridge five-piece The New Fools opened their set with a cover of ‘Day Tripper’ (the Christmas Number 1 in 1965!). The rest of the set showed that the band have plenty of their own material to draw on, with featured tracks from the album ‘Brilliant’ from earlier this year (reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/07/07/the-new-fools-brilliant-lp-released-june-2019/) and a soon to be released new collection.

‘Martine and Me’ is a bittersweet tale and ‘New Way Of Thinking’ brings the piano to the fore. I enjoyed the Höfner bass lines in a new summery song (about a druid?) and ‘Something About Jane’ was an admirable slice of Britpop. Lead singer and composer Tony Jenkins says he wants to create an original northern soul song and ‘House Of Having Fun’ has the trademark energy and certainly got the audience moving. New single ‘John Candy Talking’ is out soon and ‘The Big Wheel’ is as ever a standout track; the melody, words and atmosphere perfectly driven along by the band.

The finale was the optimistic but realistic ‘(Waiting For) The Good Times’, setting up the crowd for the festive season.
It was an excellent, upbeat show in this very warming and welcoming venue…(though I was looking forward to a live outing for their acerbic tribute/dissection of Morrissey ‘Oh Steven, Why?’, but I suppose no-one would have wanted to lower the mood!?)

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

Molly-Anne : Autumn Leaves, EP released December 2019

Issued as a very limited edition, this EP showcases the quieter acoustic side of Gloucestershire folk-country composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Molly-Anne.

1. Little Cove Starting with a gently weaving guitar arpeggio the vocal appears as if over a distant horizon. The verse resolves into the evocative ‘….and I’ll be yours under the Cornish sun,’til morning comes…’. This track creates the foundation of the atmosphere for the whole EP – spectral, minimalist, beguiling.

2. Against the Tide With slightly more urgency on this song, the guitar figure personifies the flowing water of the title. ‘….I feel I’m swimming against the tide now….I know this world is turning slow now….fear of growing old…’. It is a gentle musing on choices and passing time (and was inspired by Pink Floyd’s classic ‘Time’). A harmonica appears near the end, the only other instrument to feature on this collection.

3. Cold Is the Night Straight into my pick of the year dozen, this is a gem. An understated ballad, the subtle guitar chords waltz along as the yearning lyrics deliver a feeling beyond the poetry of the words. ‘…those flowers on my windowsill, gold as the sun they remind me of you…and I’ve known heartbreak before…and what I wouldn’t give to see you walk through that door, for me…’. Gorgeous.

4. When You Leave Another song that goes straight to the emotional core, a slower meditation on life after loss, also drawing in the passing of the seasons and the slowing down as autumn moves into winter. A beautifully sung free-form melody leads into the haunting chorus ‘… I can’t sleep, the monsters in the night won’t comfort me…’

5. Yellow Sky From the impressionistic title and the moody introduction the fine vocal performance interchanges between light-as-air verses and restrained power in the chorus. Again the autumnal theme of the EP underlies the optimism, with the striking middle eight reflecting the longing at the heart of the song.

https://www.mollyannemusic.co.uk/