Tag Archives: album

The Just Joans : The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans, LP released January 2020

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.

https://www.thejustjoans.co.uk/
http://www.fikarecordings.com
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/01/25/just-lovely-split-ep-released-january-2016/

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

 

Chris Fox : From The Shadows, LP released November 2019

A track by track review of ‘From The Shadows’, the third album from Cambridge contemporary folkster Chris Fox.

1. Bird Of Paradise A likeable and catchy song that Chris has been performing live for a while, a relaxing bluegrassy piece featuring contrasting backing vocals and a subtly cool acoustic ensemble driven by upright bass.

2. Tinseltown This current single is a darkly humerous murder ballad about how a US summer job went awry, ending with the consequences from ‘….paid me a couple of grand to bury a body in the sand…the coyote howled and the owl did screech….’. The narrative motors along smoothly, always returning to the inevitable chorus line ‘….now I’m running from the law…I’m running like I never run before…’ . It is a morality tale to relish.

3. You Helped me through A looser, free-form song with just a gently percussive acoustic guitar and a confiding, emotive vocal reminiscent of the late John Martyn. Excellent.

4. Little Brown Sparrow Inspired by an encounter with a homeless woman, pondering the future and the choices involved on both sides. A sparse guitar figure weaves its spell in the background.

5. Annabelle A song of love and loss, with a strong tune and the words cleverly blending multiple exes into the title character, also deconstructing aspects of the creative process into the lyric and featuring some neat couplets ‘…I wrote a hundred songs about you…did you write one about me?…’.The bass stretches and yearn across the words, as it does on the next track too.

6. I’m in Love with you A highlight of the album, with smooth rhythm from the brushed drums and a violin with a counter-melody giving depth to this lovelorn coffee-themed tale. The harmony vocal from Zoe Wren is just right and the atmosphere created reminds me of the whispering folk/blues of J.J. Cale.

7. The Motivator Blues A change to electric guitar (played by album producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Wilde) for this 12-bar blues, a burst of positivity and statement of intent.

8. Castaway With the 2000 movie as the inspiration for this gently scored acoustic piece, it extends the metaphor into deeper reflections, with fine voice work from Chris and Zoe.

9. Just a Fool From a slow thoughtful start this expands into a folk anthem as the acoustic chords continue to build. With the topic of unrequited love the lyrics are sombre ‘…I’m just a fool left out in the rain, still I pine for you…‘, but there is still an element of moving on despite this.

10. Who Really Loves you Timely pondering of the genuineness of friends and supporters and who really counts. It is built around a catchy hookline and leaves you thinking as it drifts away through the ether accompanied by a sharp guitar solo.

With 42 shows so far in 2019, Chris Fox is a consummate live performer, either as a solo guitarist or with like-minded musicians. This is a collection of songs that deserve an even wider audience…

https://www.chrisfoxmusic.org/

Gaffa Tape Sandy : Family Mammal, EP released August 2019

A super-long EP or mini-album from East Anglia’s finest power-rock trio Gaffa Tape Sandy. It is a follow-up to their acclaimed collection ‘Spring Killing’ from 2017 and builds on their reputation for brilliant live shows, which has been captured in the excellent ‘as-live’ production here.

After an insightful spoken introduction from young Isaac (‘…banging tunes!!…’), the opener ‘Beehive’ pushes all before it; unbearably catchy vocal lines, a descending chord sequence, an impassioned natural history lyric and guitar noise that could not be bettered. With the flexibility of two strong and contrasting singers the band can keep the momentum going with the excellent ‘Meat Head’, a timely reminder of attitudes to personal rights.
Both of these tracks have been previously released and are familiar live favourites but the newer ‘My Desperate House’ maintains the high standard. After the deceptive calm intro and the band raise the fireworks to full volume there is no doubt that this is another fine tune.

‘Headlights’ has a syncopated, choppy rhythm and with the dual vocals trading exchanges it refers to the mental health issues that cloud the lives of so many people. As on the rest of the album the production and mix on this track blend the basic trio of instruments into something really special.

Departing into the quick waltz time of ‘So Dry’ the band show their prowess when stretched into a song of contrasting light and dark sound levels, as also ‘Dinner Jacket’ which is a more sedate outing…..until the trio suddenly burst into full flight near the end!

‘Turnstile’ has an anthemic quality with explosive drumming and spiky bass playing, then the finale ‘Kill The Chord’ is a protest song about cuts to the arts and the closure of small venues. It is a reminder that the lifeblood of creativity is flowing through the veins of emerging bands, captured at their best in an intimate, packed performance space playing the sort of show at which Gaffa Tape Sandy excel…

https://www.gaffatapesandy.co.uk/

Ember Rev : From The Country To The City To The Sea, LP released 20 September 2019

A new album from Cambridge art/folk rockers Ember Rev, a complex mixture of acoustic mystery and thoughtful intensity. It is said there are only seven basic plots for any story, this presumably applies to concept albums too; here it is the ‘quest’ and the ‘voyage and return’ that give an arc to this set of songs and instrumentals.

‘Like Dreamers’ places the story in possibly an imaginary context, a floating ethereal landscape where the cymbals roll in and out and the accordion becomes a haunting meander. ‘From The Country ‘ describes the optimistic and youthful narrators setting off on an odyssey across the countryside into Cambridge ‘….and with our hip flask full and boots tied tight we set off to search for gold….’. The groove of this track stays restless and Dan Ecclestone’s vocals immediately pull you into the action.

‘To The City’ jumps ahead to a surreal interlude of a parade of lanterns in the capital, a metaphor for moving on. The most uptempo track here, it has a satisfyingly loose structure with a neat hookline and guitar figure, eventually dissolving into an extended workout with guest clarinet making a welcome contribution.

Two instrumentals follow, the first a short scene-setter with extra tuned percussion cameos then ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ is a more ambitious piece, with terrific drumming driving a late seventies Brand X influenced piece of jazz fusion. ‘And So To The Sea’ hints at a tragedy to come on the final stage of the journey/quest ‘…..but I waited, I waited there at the water’s edge you never returned….’. The acoustic guitar gleams with melancholy and dominates the song. ‘Be Still’ is a wordless meditation where the mournful voice becomes a darker instrument to counterpoint the light of the accordion.

‘Ultramarine’ is a multi-sectioned piece with surreal musings on life and death with the inevitable draw of the sea for the central character ‘…let’s swim with the fishes tonight..and dance to their ebb and their flow…had you asked me jump I’d have jumped; and the waves would’ve welcomed me under…’. Instrumentally there is lots going on here – all of the band making an excellent contribution to this affecting mini-movie.

As Dan performs the Peter Gabriel-esque final track ‘Like Dolphins’ he leaves the listener in no doubt that the allusions in earlier songs reference a tragedy ‘….for though we slowly came of age you remained…and of your bones are coral made…’; one that lingers with those involved, as does this very personal and thought-provoking album.

https://www.facebook.com/EmberRev/

The New Fools : Brilliant, LP released June 2019

A track by track review of the new album from Cambridge band The New Fools (their name drawn from a Bob Dylan lyric…)

1. The Big Wheel A cracking opener – rolling along and relentlessly driven by acoustic guitar. With sharp similes to describe the excitement of a new relationship it is a warm and engaging lyric ‘….like the first page of your diary…you make me feel brand new….’. There may be a darker twist at the end but the Wave Pictures/REM groove makes this one of the best tracks on the album. I saw the band play this at the Cambridge NCI club back in February; it is an excellent live track too.

2. A New Way of Thinking Optimistic but tinged with regret; a manifesto for starting afresh and moving on over jazzy bar room piano and some neat brass lines.

3. Singalong A fun but searing indictment of the modern music ‘industry’ and hopeful recollection of a possibly non-existent past when ‘…we were happy enough to just singalong…’. The acquisition of money and fame for its own sake leading to decay brings to mind the seminal 1974 film ‘Stardust’, touched on again in recent Beatles-themed movie ‘Yesterday’.

4. Martine (and Me) There is plenty going on in this song, a sort of mini dramatic opera where the narrator lives a normal drab life while fantasy partner Martine is on a different plane altogether. The track succeeds in blending these worlds together over an ever-changing musical background featuring a cello sound and lots of interesting guitar work. After a gradual picking up of pace it ends with ‘…when the cops burst in they think they’re gonna find Bonnie and Clyde…but all they find is Martine and me….’ and a playout guitar solo completes the circle.

5. Everything This track is a bit of a grower – a thoughtful meditation on the passing of time and our cosmic insignificance. Perhaps they are depressing thoughts but lifted by a strong melody and a stealthily building guitar-driven rhythm and keyboard colouring.

6. George & Adele More comment on the media, music industry and its distortion by reality talent shows (I think?). A distinctive brass fanfare and some angry-sounding electric guitar provide the tension while you ponder on who exactly is George?

7. The Boy You Met On Holiday This is the melodic and emotional highpoint of the album. A simple tune goes straight to the heart with an evocative timeless lyric of longing and loss. The mournful and well-judged flugelhorn solo gives that flavour of melancholy like a long-forgotten colliery brass band.

8. (Waiting for the) Good Times Irresistibly catchy but different in tone to anything else on the album. An anthem of procrastination (always an uncomfortable trait to admit to!) juxtaposed with a jaunty call and response vocal and rolling along instrumentation. As an album closer it is certainly a memorable end to the collection.

https://www.facebook.com/thenewf00ls/

Psychic Lemon : Live at the Smokehouse, LP released May 2019

Recorded at The Smokehouse, Ipswich’s venue for the discerning listener and pursuer of truth and authenticity in music, here is a new live album from Cambridge-based Psychic Lemon.
This consists of three tracks from their second album ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ (see review below) and two new tunes. The band have dispensed with vocals on this live performance, distilling their psychedelic onslaught into its purest form.
This is clear from the opening ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’; as the guitar effects go crazy in the first minute like an ending to the track instead of the beginning, but fear not! the drums and bass lay down their groove and propel the sound along at a mighty pace for all of its ten minutes.

Straight into ‘Satori Disko’, a more mellow-ish, languid offering with a looping guitar figure and some extravagant cymbal smashes as the bass spans the octaves. There is a conventional guitar solo too to tempt the palate. Favourite track of mine ‘Hey Droog’ is driven by a pounding drum pattern with some dark choral sounds adding an atmosphere of doom. Like all of their live performances, the music seems to take on a life of its own, the band merely servants of the greater cause.

New track ‘Jonny Marvel at the Milky Way’ is a pastoral interlude, like an instrumental from mid-period Pink Floyd the keyboard provides the texture for grand guitar experimentation over an unhurried rhythm backing. As the atmospheric colours fade away, the finale bursts in; ‘White Light’ is a frenetic work-out – a high energy end to an immersive and impressive performance with the music firmly embedded in the walls of this excellent venue.

http://www.psychiclemon.co.uk/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/01/01/psychic-lemon-frequency-rhythm-distortion-delay-cd-released-january-2018/