Tag Archives: album

Fightmilk : Not With That Attitude, LP released November 2018

Following on from two tasty EPs recently collected with bonus tracks onto the compilation ‘Both Types Of Hay Fever’, feisty London four-piece Fightmilk deliver their first full album of guitar power pop…..

1. How You Move On A recent single to preview this new album, the teasing guitar intro heralds a big band crash-in and a tale of relationship failure where the dominant legacy is an ill-judged tattoo. The clever and surprising lyrical trick here is that the inked ‘stupid tree’ design becomes the complete theme of the song, with a fade out of ‘…lasers are painful but I think you need it…’

2. Get A Grip Neat twisty bass work on this companion piece to an arrogant character in an earlier song (‘Jesse’). I greatly enjoy the stop-start middle eight (‘…you’re Twitter famous…whatever that means..’)

3. Lucy Driven by a sustained riff à la ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ this is the shortest track; a compact blast with belting chorus and melody, one of Lily’s best vocal performances.

4. Summer Crush It’s that bass again, jumping around under plenty of guitar tricks in this summery anthem with a bittersweet lyrical undertone ‘….a six week sugar rush….‘ that implies it is not all good.

5. Dream Phone ‘… I fell in love at the dial tone…’; beginning with that evocative sound, yes, I probably have fallen in love with this track already, recalling Blondie Hanging on the Telephone and ELO(!) on their Telephone Line. The third of the trilogy of pre-release singles this is a real grower, with pacey backing, great hookline and a strange dreamy atmosphere due to some adventurous electronic drum patterns and echoing guitar.

6. Not Going Anywhere With a superb descending chord sequence, this seems to be an irony-free evocation of childhood insecurities and family life. As on many of these tracks the guitars do so many nuanced but loud twists and turns to make this a great listening experience.

7. Four Star Hotel Trying to rescue a relationship by holidaying in Amsterdam is turned into a tale of regret and paranoia ‘….and all the cyclists were staring…’ (should have come to Cambridge, the cyclists are too polite and reserved to stare…). The nihilistic sentiment is set to a rollicking tune with excellent drumming. This also features another trademark of the band’s vocals, the ‘Greek Chorus’ call and response at the end for emphasis.

8. Over An anthemic love song, straight into ‘…I’m gonna fall for you, over and over…‘ with dense layers of backing, a bit of guitar solo and enormous drums. The repeated overlapping hookline makes the meaning very clear.

9. Solving Crimes In Sweden With acoustic guitar and piano, it is a bit of a contrast on this imaginatively themed opus. Cold climate ‘…five hours of sun a day, we stay in anyway…‘ and escaping into neverending detective work make this scandi-drama sound like an attractive date;‘….this time I’m not coming home, I want to see the snow…’

10. Your Girlfriend Previously released but re-worked for this new album, this musical tour de force is a superb song, stealthy and sinister with minimal verses giving way to a singalong chorus. Dissonant guitar, caustic lyrics in a turmoil of mixed emotion and another fine middle eight, ‘..I don’t have a pencil case but if I did I’d write our names…’. The band are on top form for this epic with another great vocal too.

Currently touring with these excellent new songs (and some oldies too!) the band are a formidable live attraction…

https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/06/01/fightmilk-both-types-of-hayfever-ep-collection-released-may-2018/

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Jo Ash : Constellations, LP released October 2018

Jo Ash is a singer and keyboard player from Ely, releasing her first LP of self-penned compositions. It is an album of introspection, intensity, imagination and above all of confident, well-structured song writing.

The first two tracks have a broad cosmological theme as referred to in the album title, with ‘Otherworldly’ a strong opener to the collection with its orchestral introduction before the acoustic piano and voice drive the song and lift its haunting chorus. Jo’s piano style is rich and compelling on many of these tracks, on ‘4D Journey’ it adorns a stealthy synthesiser bass pulse and another arresting chorus.
If the album generally tends towards slower tempos, in contrast the spirited ‘Story Behind Your Smile’ dances along briskly, ably supported by guesting guitar, bass and drums.

‘Adrift’ and ‘I See You’ are stately ballads where Jo gives full range to her clear, pure voice. ‘Her Eternity’ is a waltz led by some darker piano textures and tempo changes. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ is a progrockish concoction with marching orchestra, spiky strings and a complex many-section arrangement.

‘Embers’ is a favourite of mine; with minimal piano and backing voices it still achieves a lush, emotive sound and it features one of Jo’s best vocals. ‘Blue Heart’ uses the repeating waltz rhythm of the echoing piano to great effect to counterpoint the abstract sentiments of the words.

For the final song a foreboding drum beat underpins a dark lyric musing on the inevitability of time passing and the idea that we only have ‘30,000 Days’ of life? The sombre chorus drives the song, ‘…here I am walking this Earth….’.
It is an unusual and haunting end to an impressive debut album.

http://joashmusic.com/

Ember Rev : Premonition And Ruin, LP released Summer 2018

Cambridge four-piece Ember Rev are currently finalising their third LP, but this excellent previous release from early summer this year is well worth considering first. It is a concept album inspired by the state of the nation, with a feel of reflective and thoughtful protest.

1. Bring It Right Down Based on overheard conversations during train journeys by band leader Dan Ecclestone he has distilled the sentiments and current attitudes to political developments into a disruptive, edgy opus of powerful and personal imagery. The instrumental spikes are partly tempered by the rocking accordion of Chris Peckham and Dan’s vocals remind me of Tom Robinson at his protesting finest.

2. The Fear Another track where you can’t quite pin down the time signature this one broods into a descending guitar figure and hookline of paranoia and warning. There is a good featured voice contribution from Romy Gensale too.

3. Something Almost Imperceptible Relaxing acoustic instrumental passage with guitar arpeggios, glockenspiel and piano but with a sense of foreboding threading through. It is like something from an early gothic/pastoral Genesis album (eg Trespass)

4. Papillon The title is a reference to a quotation from Alexander Pope;’Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’ and famously referenced when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were given a prison sentence in 1967. Mix those allusions in with a stately strolling accordion rhythm, loping bass, spacious drumming then suddenly a huge chorus crashes in. The pensive, questioning lyrics lead the song to its downbeat conclusion.

5. My Sentiments Exactly
The polyrhythmic undercurrents of much of the album are given free range here, with complex drumming driving the jazzy feel of the tune and another excellent vocal performance from Dan Ecclestone.

6. England’s Finest Hour The finale of the album unifies many of the musical styles we have heard previously. The forthright lyric links a historical context to the present day with the resigned multi-lingual words expressing solidarity with the European continent.

https://www.facebook.com/EmberRev

Elma : Dreamland, LP released September 2018

Retro duo Elma revive and re-interpret many aspects of sixties pop genres on their long awaited debut long-player ‘Dreamland’.
The title track sets the agenda with its sparse instrumentation, a leisurely waltz time, smooth melody and of course a lyric of regret and longing sung by the golden voice of Ellie Gillett. It conjures up the russet shades and faded grandeur of the deserted fairground and art-deco cinema on the album sleeve. Some of the tracks have been released before as inviting aperitifs to this full collection; the glorious stomp of ‘California’ and their four-track EP including the heartbreaking ballad ‘Butterfingers’.
(as reviewed on this site previously at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/07/01/elma-california-single-released-june-2018/ and https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/11/05/elma-slo-mo-ep-released-october-2017/)

Mark Ellis orchestrates a full band sound with plenty of brass for anthem of independence ‘On My Way’ (featuring another fine middle eight and instrumental break).
‘The Game’ is a beauty, the atmospheric introductory waltz creating an image of a rainy London street in the 1960s or a black and white TV detective series theme, then the jazzy vocal takes control and lifts it to another level, with a big chorus suddenly appearing.

Then the album ends with two excellent and contrasting tracks; ‘All I Want’ is an appealing and effortless lounge-music vignette, the voice floating above lighter-than-air electric guitar work, bass and brushed drums, with a piano solo too.
Finally, if ‘Butterfingers’ left the listener in emotional turmoil, then ‘Late To The Party’ has surpassed it with lines like ‘….you did all that you could boy, you wrote our names in the clouds, too bad that I wasn’t looking up…..’. Over simple and effective acoustic guitar chords, Ellie delivers a show-stopping vocal performance of nuance and emotion, worthy of this superb song.

Elma are launching the LP with live dates featuring a full band, including a show at The Portland Arms in Cambridge on 27th September….

https://www.facebook.com/elmaband/

Tragical History Tour : Aphorisms, LP released April 2018

Tragical History Tour is the stage name of Derrick Johnston, a singer-songwriter from the East Coast of Scotland who has substantial experience of performing in various bands and solo. With many stories to tell he is finally releasing his first long-player.

Opening track ‘Fight For Light’ sets the tone; a hybrid of folk, country and acoustic punk with a fiery, roaring vocal unleashed to great effect. The political message of ‘Come On Home, Hero’ is a previously released single, easing up a bit on the voice over a rockabilly backing.

‘Old Words’ shows a more tender side (‘….when I cut myself open in front of you to prove my heart was pure, but now not so sure….’) sung over a slow introduction, but then speeds up into a melancholic heartfelt song with an electric guitar line cutting through the acoustic.

‘What Would Vinnie Mac Do?’ has a cryptic lyric delivered over some sparkling guitar picking. The melody and arrangement of ‘It’s Cool, I’ve Got This’ is a highlight, an affecting and emotionally raw performance.

And there is much more, eventually reaching the epic conclusion of the album; ‘The Final Intervention’, an anthemic, wide-ranging summary of many of the elements of what has come before with the addition of well-judged piano, spoken voices and an almost orchestral ending.

Like the stark black and white landscapes featured on the cover art of this and his other releases the music can be agonised and angry, but always authentic and there is still a warmth to be felt from these ten tracks.

https://tragicalhistorytour.bandcamp.com/
http://www.real-records.co.uk/product/tragical-history-tour-aphorisms/

Snowpoet : Thought You Knew, LP released February 2018

Snowpoet join together elements of folk, jazz, ambient and of course poetry to produce a captivating fusion of sound. The writing and performing core of the band is singer Lauren Kinsella and instrumentalist Chris Hyson joined on this album by other talented acoustic players.

Opening track ‘The Therapist’ is a glistening series of guitar arpeggios with the soulful vocal of Lauren on a haunting journey where the melody never quite settles. Other instruments steal in and out and the overall effect is beguiling and mellow. Instrumental track two ‘Under The Tree’ has a ticking clock theme and paves the way for some shimmering string effects on the pastoral ‘Water Baby’ along with the piano figure constantly returning under the voice.

‘Love Again’ is a longer piece and probably my favourite track on the album, a jazzy late-night treat with a slightly up-tempo bass and a saxophone solo; like much of this album it is never too hurried. ‘Dear Someone’ is vocal only, you can imagine this one making an impact in a live context. ‘Snow’ is a measured, smooth ballad with a gorgeous vocal performance, ‘Two Of Cups’ (a tarot card that ‘…shows the beauty and power that is created when two become one…’) is a slow, evocative waltz that is reminiscent of a mid-period Van Morrison instrumental track.

And there are more special moments; the semi-spoken word of ‘It’s Already Better Than OK’ and the simple piano accompaniment to the free form ‘Another Step’, a short and powerful vignette that brings this impressive album to a satisfying end.

https://www.facebook.com/snowpoet

Faeland : All My Swim, LP released January 2018

This is a very impressive debut from Bristol contemporary folk band Faeland, an acoustic collective led by songwriting duo Rebecca Nelson and Jacob Morrison.

Opener ‘Too Much’ starts quietly before a distinctly celtic instrumentation broods mysteriously underneath Rebecca’s vocal stylings, her voice being one of the huge strengths of this disc. Released as a single, ‘We’re Just A Love Song’ is a sprightly but sad tale about the destiny of a relationship, ‘Prayer Song’ is layered vocals and atmosphere with a clarinet adding to the texture.

A shimmering harp sound on ‘All My Swim’ makes this transformative track even better, as the narrator becomes one with the flowing river. ‘Chantress’ is a more traditional folk sound, with accordion joining in too. And there is much much more, including my personal favourites ‘Strings’, with beautiful voice and elegant acoustic guitar figures and the sparse strumming and lyrical nostalgia of ‘To The Green – Live’.

Highly recommended, fifty minutes of gentle, carefully-crafted quality sounds. It is an album to escape into and become part of; somehow it seems removed from the normal time stream….

http://faeland.co.uk/