Tag Archives: album

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Volume 5, released 23 July 2021

Compiled by renowned Cambridge105 DJ Dave Hammond, Cambridge Calling Vol 5 is a new and varied compilation of tracks from musicians based around the Cambridge area, with proceeds going to Cambridge Aid | Helping local people in financial crisis since 1880

  1. BansheeVa – Janus. The title character can be described as ‘….god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings…’. That just about sums up the mind-expanding pathways of this jumpy psychedelic instrumental extravaganza.
  2. Death To Slow Music – Pressure. Two minutes of minimalist punk single line bass and guitar erupting into an explosive chorus.
  3. People Look Like Dogs – Allan Thinks We Don’t Move. Probably the best combination of band and track name on the album for this untamed cacophony of guitars, drums and wild vocal.
  4. Jaymotts – Love Paralysis. Retro jazz-funk, sounding enigmatically timeless.
  5. Collars – Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me full review here
  6. Creepy Neighbour – The Optimist. Striking but slightly disturbing piano-led ballad featuring a strong vocal from Max Taylor along with lush string stylings.
  7. Naomi Randall – Cabbage White. Lovely indie folk; evocative and effortless with the acoustic guitar adorned with other subtle instrumentation and echoing voices to frame Naomi’s sublime vocal.
  8. Dom Howard – Cascade Mix. Like a coda to the previous track, a sparkling guitar chimes out a repeated riff over the lightest of jazzy backing before an introspective solo.
  9. Lady Birdface – (I’m Gonna Give You) The Clap. DIY pop splendour from creative multi instrumentalist and songwriter Kate Shore, full of barbed edges and sparse couplets ‘…don’t you look too close or you’ll feel morose…’
  10. Sunday Driver – Time Machine. Classy acoustic steampunk fusion and sinuous vocal whisks the listener into a cabaret club of the future.
  11. Percy Black – Code Name Covid-19. If you need reminding about the subject, this is as pleasant way as it could be, super-smooth reggae with golden-voiced lead and backing vocals and laced with brass and sax; the messages are clear, ‘….give the scientists the wisdom to eliminate Covid-19….’
  12. Tom Bainbridge – Nocturne. All-acoustic multi-layered piece, built around a gently swinging pendulum rhythm and a chorus of voices.
  13. Keith Somerville – Red Angel. A loosely structured prog-psych song pulls the listener into a spiral of mellow musings, interrupted by a surprise electric solo.
  14. Helefonix – Song Thrush Serenade. Pure atmosphere of delight here as sampled birdsong tonally competes with the semi-ambient electronics.
  15. The Routine – Come Knocking At My Bedroom Door. Strong rock-pop anthem from Cambridge/London quartet with the upfront vocal and musical intricacies giving way to a huge chorus.
  16. Star Pixel – The Circle. full review here
  17. Shambertans – Wallflower. Likeable summery pop song driven at pace by the rhythm section and a busy guitar.
  18. The Mardlers – Mad To Live. Full of desperate punk-fuelled energy; the as-live sound pushes all before it through continual musical changes..

Volume 5 – German Shepherd Records

Cambridge Calling Volume 5 | Various Artists | German Shepherd Records (bandcamp.com)

Fuzzy Lights : Burials, LP released 2 July 2021

A new LP from Cambridge folk-psych collective Fuzzy Lights delivers on many levels. Opening track ‘Maidens Call’ threads a contemplative vocal over a loping bass line with violin interludes, but it is the second track ‘Songbird’ that opens the consciousness into a ten minute psychedelic workout, full of energy, colour and a voice that inhabits the darkness.

‘Graveyard Song’ strips the sound back into a sinister medieval acoustic ballad gradually building into a big instrumental coda. There is so much going on in this excellent album, like the languid interlude and speculative history of ‘Haraldskaer Woman’ contrasting with the sweeping folk-rock momentum of ‘Under The Waves’. ‘Sirens’ is possibly my favourite; with the descending chord sequence, timeless and mysterious vocal, dissonant chorus and enough noise to lose yourself in.

Ending with the ‘The Gathering Storm’, using all of its nearly seven minutes running time to build atmospheric musings over a persistent bass note this album pulls you in for an unchartered musical journey….

Welcome to Fuzzy Lights

Fuzzy Lights (bandcamp.com)

Chloe Foy : Where Shall We Begin, LP released June 2021

A track by track review of the debut LP from singer/songwriter Chloe Foy….

1.Where Shall We Begin. Setting the tone for the collection, an acoustic dreampop delight where the guitar shadows the vocal line. Gorgeous.

2.Deserve. A slow and longer meditation, peppered with restrained electric guitar, layers of vocal lines and gradual build up of atmosphere.

3.Work of Art. More tightly structured than some of the tracks, this compact pop song is driven by the insistent melody line; grounded by the bass, drums and empathetic guitar.

4.Evangeline. A definite favourite of mine, the musical triplets are joined by an endless selection of musical combinations as the stately melody serenely soars above with the sensual lyrics ‘…Evangeline…you are my queen I promise that I’ll keep you warm…’

5.Asylum. A prime example of the haunting-folk genre that Chloe inhabits, where the sonic textures of strings and harp complement the vocals perfectly, carefully arranged and produced by album collaborator Harry Fausing Smith.

6.Bones. Adrift on a becalmed sea, the rich vocal from Chloe is adorned by a dark and moody instrumental mix.

7.Shining Star. Uptempo, hypnotic and mysterious ‘…fears untold and false absolve be true to who you are…faster now, you’re dancing now…you’ll be my shining star…’

8.Left-Centred Weight. Previously released as a single this is a showcase for the smooth and mellow tones of Chloe’s voice as the languid strings emerge over the horizon and create a semi-orchestral extravaganza.

9.And It Goes. The longest track on the album, a free form late night jazzy-folk reverie with contrasting sections, unpredictable diversions and finally drifting off into the cosmos.

10.Square Face. Possibly saving the best till last, this is a timeless and traditional sounding folk melody over a reassuring background of strings and a waltzing piano. The unaccompanied vocal towards the end lingers long in the memory as an emotional representation of this superb album.

Chloe Foy

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Fightmilk : Contender, LP released 14 May 2021

Frequently reviewed on this site, roisterous London powerpunks Fightmilk release their sparkling new album….

Lucky Coin : After a brief linking introduction this track means business, as the mix melds the band together into a sharp backing for a post break-up tale of uncertainty ‘….yes I’m building something new…..and I’m a lucky coin, I just flip myself back over…’

Hey Annabelle! : An underused name in pop songs, this was a pre-released single and another energetic burst of pop delight with an edge ‘….Annabelle if you see her, can you check if anybody is there….please don’t make it too obvious because I definitely don’t care…’

I’m Starting to Think You Don’t Ever Want To Go Into Space : full review here

The Absolute State Of Me : A lyric of self-doubt inhabits the 1970s sounding production of this gleaming pop gem, which could be my favourite track on the LP. Savour the middle eight ‘….you’d look just like your picture…I wouldn’t be so useless…’ and the lively instrumental playout.

Girls Don’t Want to Have Fun : This is the more pensive side of Fightmilk, with the addition of strings, keys and drum machine sounds to create a platform for some surreal imagery in Lily’s vocal ‘…..when we talk about dying it feels like a pipe dream….
I can be your guinea pig baby…. I can make you like me….’

Cool Cool Girl : Recalling the quartet’s early EPs this is a mighty powerpop explosion with a wittily acerbic lyric delivered with conviction, great answering vocal backing from the band and a killer chorus.

Banger #4 : Drum driven spectacular, with full-on adventurous bass lines and molten guitar lines duelling with a big vocal, all adding up to the accurate description of the title.

If You Had a Sister… : full review here

You Are Not the Universe : Another character dissection, gradually building in lyrical complexity until the pay-off of ‘…the plays unread…the script is unrehearsed….but you’ve made your bed and you are not the universe…’

Maybe : With some instrumental link sections as brief respite this album does not lose forward momentum, even after the calmer acoustic introduction this track becomes another punchy anthem with a playful but lingering short phrase melody line that flawlessly hits the spot.

Overbite : This is a classy pre-released single, complete with animated video and distilling many of the elements of the band into the perfect blend. Over the dynamite bass line the lyric weaves a clever obsessional spell summed up in the chorus ‘….I think you’re cool….I like your overbite…’.

Long awaited and anticipated, Fightmilk have delivered another excellent collection of noisy pop gold.

Fightmilk – Home | Facebook

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Fightmilk : Not With That Attitude, LP released November 2018 | cambridgemusicreviews

Fightmilk : Both Types Of Hayfever (EP Collection), released May 2018 | cambridgemusicreviews

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Louise Parker : Living in Silver Linings, LP released April 2021

The debut album from talented UK country singer/songwriter Louise Parker opens with ‘Rear View Mirror’, one of four tracks ‘re-imagined’ from previous releases, in this case expanded from the original acoustic version to a full band rocker, radiating fun and energy. ‘Should’ve, Could’ve, Will’ rolls along with a counterpoint violin in the mix and an assertive message ‘…..and I’m not moving backwards so I might as well focus on where I’m going instead….and next time I will be strong and tell you no….’ then the emotional heft of ‘Lie To Me’ features some gospel chord styling and a vocal giving heartfelt regret to lines like ‘….and I’ll leave your side of the bed made, just in case you come back one day…..’.

The duet with Joey Clarkson ‘If You Want Me To’ is a gorgeous light-touch pop song full of delicate harmonies and definitely one of the highlights of the collection, along with the strong melodic statement of ‘Story of Love’. There is a change of pace for the reflections of ‘I’m Moving to Nashville’, where the narrator finds all is not as expected ‘….there was no gold at the end of rainbow…just people pulling strings at a grandiose puppet show….it’s about who you know, not what you know…..’ before the country pop positivity of ‘Just Friends’ restores the relaxed mood.

I like the way this album is full of style changes and surprises; the voice and piano introduction of ‘Paradise’ moves seamlessly into the full band treatment with Louise’s light and shade vocal powerhouse pushing all before it (and special bonus playout section on the CD version!). It is a rewarding finale to this rich collection of songs.

Home | louiseparkermusic

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Léanie Kaleido : How to Weigh a Whale Without a Scale, LP released March 2021

Singer/songwriter Léanie Kaleido released her debut album ‘Karamelien’ in 2005, ‘Quicksands and Shadows’ in 2014 and now this enigmatically titled new collection.

Her songs exist in a timeless flow of voices and waterfall piano, seeming to sound simultaneously intimate and broad in scope. Opener ‘All The Things I’m Made Of’ illustrates this perfectly as the dual vocal threads its magic through the echoing instrumentation, before returning to the impressionistic piano figure.

The pensive waltz of ‘Nobody’s Hero’ is a poetic character description with a spiralling chorus, then Léanie’s gentle voice reveals the mystery of the title track ‘…..do you really need to analyse…love is love it has no size…its like trying to weigh a whale without a scale…’. Four minutes of musings and meanderings interweave with the cyclical chord arrangement and harp sound to produce an effective and addictively gorgeous track.

I like the pastoral indie-folk sounds of ‘Mr Dragonfly’ along with the retro-fun of ‘Hat Thief’ where the acoustic guitar is to the fore. The emotional core of the album is probably the final two tracks, the heartbreak recollection and assertion of ‘Teapot Girl’ over stately layers of keyboards, followed by the clever melody, lyrical allusions and soaring chorus of ‘Kite String Mantra’.

Like a dense and rich forest it is an album of mystery and romance to completely lose yourself in.

Léanie Kaleido – The world in the back of a spoon (leanie.com)

Lizard Brain : Confection, LP released 9 April 2021

A new LP from Cambridge collective Lizard Brain is another very impressive set of unpredictable genre skipping, as if each band member has secretly added a track or two on without the others noticing…

With found voices and 80s pulse, opener ‘If Our Eyes Were Blue’ is a catchy electropop romp themed around a revealing 1960s psychological experiment on prejudice. Straight into ‘Othering’, a swampy metal blues that includes some of the social comment resonating with the events of the last year that is a recurring lyrical starting point on the album.

Lizard Brain are full of musical talent and studio invention; witness the programmed beats frenzy of ‘Round And Round’, the melancholic clarinet solo on thoughtful piano ballad ‘Featureless Zone’ and the lush synth tones of ‘Turning The Wheel’ and ‘Black Hole Love’.

There is usually a dark undertow beneath the original impression of the song; from some enigmatic words ‘…Iʼve been driving down the road…in my juggling clothes….’ or ‘…I fed you worms and said it was spaghetti….’ or ‘….and when push comes to shove you’ll be ready to watch them drown…..’ to music that creates a complex and haunting atmosphere, such as the building gothic nightmare of ‘Sleepyhead’ and mind-expanding electronics of ‘Just Relax’ (which is still strangely reassuring?).

Escapist, expansive and unnerving, the Lizards have produced another strong collection to creatively stand alongside their previous work.

Music | Cambridge | Lizard Brain Band (wixsite.com)

Lizard Brain : Stray, LP released 18th January 2019 | cambridgemusicreviews

German Shepherd Records – Different Noises For Your Ears

The Crystal Furs : Beautiful and True, LP released 2 April 2021

Originally a low-key release last year, the third LP from US trio The Crystal Furs now gets a wider vinyl distribution in the UK.

From the opening tones of the Farfisa organ on ‘Comeback Girls’ the lo-fi indiepop shines through, with jangly guitars, unassuming instrumental breaks and a naturalistic production that puts the Furs right there in the room with you. The band sound is also encapsulated in the minor epic of ‘Expo 67’, opening with the strangely inviting line ‘…we built a home of concrete bones…’, full of melancholy in the verses before the catchy chorus. Lead vocalist Steph Buchanan keeps herself carefully placed in the mix, making the band sound as one cohesive entity.

‘Too Kind To Be Cruel’ is a compact pop song with a yearning melody and some well-honed rhymes ‘…write the things you’ll say to me …engaging in so much hyperbole…‘, while ‘Burn Us Down’ rocks hard; ‘….you wanna cure me, you wanna fix me I wanna kick you to the curb…’ and is probably my favourite on the album.

Over the twelve tracks (and an extra set of mono remixes on the digital album!) The Crystal Furs clearly sound like they are having fun in their music, as summarised in the final track ‘Second Time Around’, ‘…..join a band and play guitar… and play it loud it isn’t hard…‘ This is a lyrically dense album too, full of themes, ideas, reflections and social comment and not afraid to give these carefully crafted songs the time to breathe and develop.

The Crystal Furs

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Model Village : World of Carp, LP released 5 March 2020

With their first LP since ‘Healing Centre’ in 2015, Model Village storm the citadel of sharp but polite pop on this ten song collection.

The distinctive guitar introduction of opener ‘Insufferable’ and immediate lyrical touchstones, ‘….drinking Pinot Noir….embracing failure….what will we do?…’ show that the Village are back with a bang. Lead singer Lily sounds optimistic yet full of regret while the rest of the band add harmonies and a complex musical backing. ‘Oslo’ is a likeable up-tempo jaunt that transposes the action of a relationship to Scandinavia to add to the feeling of uncertainty ‘…..if I dare to speak the language I’d be lost in translation… ‘. It creates an atmosphere a bit like an arthouse film where not much happens, but there is still a winning resolution in the final reel ‘….you know I’ll be coming back for you today…’.

‘Roll It Over’ is driven by the strong melody to give another pacey song with many musical nuances and a dominant vocal performance. A surprise middle-eight makes a welcome appearance near the end. The momentum continues with ‘Otters’, a light, jazzy and summery confection featuring an enigmatic title, imagery and trademark retro electric piano.

A highlight for me is ‘Roles’ – I am very partial to this type of slow blues track and this is a fine example. Over the six minutes there is loads of time to develop the lyrical ideas, ‘….are you smoking to impress me cause that would just depress me my dear…’. Instrumentally the band have a great time, with plenty going on around the guitar arpeggios including a demented solo, roving basslines and the drums only just staying restrained. I like the way that extra syllables are pushed into the main melody to keep up an atmosphere of doubt ‘….its not that easy to throw yourself into a role that you don’t believe in…’.

The band continue to move through different genres and styles; on ‘Sunburn’ a long experimental introduction evolves into a pensive and thoughtful song, ‘Popular Band’ is a wry self-referential resume of the band’s 12 year career while the hypnotic ‘Variety Box’ is another take on the blues and showcases the best vocal performance on the album.

The album closes with the big ballad ‘Miseryguts’, as the strong melody is boosted by extravagant 70s Carpenters style backing vocals. There is more too, on a very satisfying mix of timeless indie-pop from this artful Cambridge-based collective.

model village | Facebook

The Other Ones : The Other Ones, LP released February 2021

The debut long-player from London four-piece The Other Ones is a riot of noise and craftily crafted punk, with a few quiet sections slipping effectively under the radar of fuzz. There have been some pre-release singles to whet the appetite but surprisingly not the brilliant opening track ‘Drown You’. This song has it all; a killer introduction that springs from nowhere, a punk riff from heaven/hell, harmony vocal lines and spellbinding chorus ‘…all I ever really wanted to do is drown you…’. The drums and guitars drench the listener in distorted sound and it is pure pleasure.

‘On Top Of Me’ has a chord sequence that seems to be catching up on itself and demented guitar lines that underpin the energy of the vocal. ‘Forever Young’ is a perennial pop single, then within the field of energy of ‘Money’ there is lyrical acerbity and absurdity to get to the truth, ‘….we never kiss…..we never touch….. we only talk about money…’. It is not until track six when we have some calm respite with the acoustic ‘I Wish I Was Your Boyfriend’ with the biting ‘…your always in my mind but whose on yours…are you only with me because you’re bored?…’.

‘Better Off Alone Again’ strays into full-on rock territory while ‘Wasted Youth’ is a glorious drum extravaganza. Title track ‘The Other Ones’ is almost frightening in its intensity and serves as an effective manifesto for the band. Closing with the ethereal acoustic lines of ‘I Think Too Much’ is an unexpected departure but seems to work perfectly well to bookend this dynamic collection.

The Other Ones | Facebook

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