Tag Archives: LP

The New Fools : Papillion – The Complete Lock Down Sessions, LP released September 2020

Cambridge band The New Fools have continued to consistently produce and perform new music in recent years and have not been stopped by a pandemic; with a combination of back and forth recording technology and determination they recorded a succession of singles through the lock down which are now collected on this new mini-LP.

As always with their work there is a variety of styles showcased here; the rocking ‘Solowly’ is heralded by a fuzzy guitar riff which gels the sections together on this comment on wealth and happiness, while ‘Sunday Night’ is a gentler, dreamy lyrical meditation from a nostalgic musical narrator featuring an empathetic guitar solo and flugel horn. ‘Another Way of Thinking’ is a languid companion piece to an earlier track, contrasting with the dynamic pace and urgency of imaginary film theme ‘Witch’.
‘Nothing Toulouse’ is a thoughtful melody and guitar line driven pop song with hints of the psychedelic tone that used to thread its way through 60s chart songs. ‘Old Bones’ features some rich sustained Hammond organ notes and a shade of Bob Dylan in the delivery and timing of the lyric phrases, followed by the joyous skiffle minimalism and even some whistling on ‘D.N.S.’

So far there has not been much direct reference to the strangeness of recent times but on longer track finale ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (not the Vera Lynn ‘classic’!) aspects of this theme are covered, accompanied by a discomfiting drum and piano waltz. The flugel horn makes another welcome appearance then eventually the song ends with a reference to the Beatles world-unifying song ‘All You Need Is Love’ with massed vocals and the richness of the instruments brought to the fore too.

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

Dream Nails : ‘Dream Nails’, LP released 28 August 2020

This is the long-awaited first album from London quartet Dream Nails, a glorious amalgam of rage, fun, protest and emotion; reminding you just how good their live shows are.
Interspersing the tracks with short spoken ‘skits’ to introduce songs and keep the momentum going it is a concise 24 minutes, full of insight and energy.

From the start, you are pulled into their world as the celebratory holiday sound of ‘Jillian’ flows into the bitter twists of the workplace in ‘Corporate Realness’. Whatever the messages, the bass sound and drum dynamics are off the scale. The lyrical ideas keep coming, but it is also their music that pushes forward; when I have seen them live the meticulous attention to their set up and sound pays dividends and this production has captured that as-live atmosphere.

The razor-sharp bass and surf-rock guitar splendour of ‘Swimming Pool’ is frenetically followed by ‘This Is the Summer’ which manages to celebrate the season as well as weave a strong environmental theme through the perfect structure of a powerpop single. Watch the video too to see the band performing in a scrapyard, wrestling with a giant frog and footage of climate demonstrations.

‘Payback’ has caustic riffs, a soaring echoing guitar and an excellent wide-ranging vocal performance in thoughtful quieter sections and then unleashed full-on.

‘In Other News’ introduces one of the most disturbing news items from last year, when homophobic taunting on a London bus led to assault. The band’s explosive response pulls no punches; ‘Kiss My Fist’ is musically and lyrically a very powerful track.

Catch them live when you can, in the meantime enjoy this scorching debut LP!

https://www.facebook.com/yourdreamnails
https://ilovealcopop.awesomedistro.com/bands/dreamnails
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/06/25/the-baby-seals-blue-moon-cambridge-22-june-2019/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/11/21/indiepop-all-dayer-blue-moon-cambridge-18-november-2017/

The Harriets : Hopefuls, LP released July 2020

A track by track review of ‘Hopefuls’, the excellent new album by Leeds quartet The Harriets.

1. Cafe Disco. A distillation of many of the high spots on this album this stunning opening track explodes with creativity; the outsider but celebratory commentary of Pulp’s Mis-Shapes meshed with the musical complexity of timeless Squeeze singles. The first line ‘…Tell me all your guilty pleasures I’ll tell you mine…’ draws you in to listen.

2. Trip To The Moon. Previously released as a single this muses on old movies and cinemas as a backdrop to the hope of a relationship. From the dense, rolling instrumentation suddenly a catchy hookline then a soaring guitar solo appears. This album is full of surprises.

3. Darlin’. Wistful, winning pure pop laced with brass sounds, call and response verse lines and a big chorus ‘…baby when you look into my eyes…and when you come round and we play music through the night until sunrise….’

4. Have Fun In Your Workplace. With its languid pace, surreal lyrics and the patterns and solos in a pure guitar sound there are echoes of the Wave Pictures to be found here, always a good recommendation.

5. Rules For Travelling. Piano and close harmonies begin one of the most addictive and melodically strong songs on the album. The lyric seems like a strange disjointed road movie but definitely in a good way.

6. Johnny. It doesn’t seem to end well for the title character in this piano and jangly guitar filled song, although he may just have left his hometown carrying his Steely Dan albums ‘….but Johnny used to wander round, clutching ‘katy lied’ in his hand oh what a band….’ and forging ahead with his music career ‘….he wrote a lot of his songs with an American accent in mind….and so this story was a song, and the song was always going on…’. Like many of the words on the LP, there is a thoughtfulness and ambiguity which makes you listen again.

7. Come Home. With brass enhancement and a persistent driving beat, this is short and to the point ‘…I woke up today and you’d gone away…now all I seem to think about is you…won’t you, come on home…’. Melancholy but with an undercurrent of optimism.

8. Fall Out Of Grace. A lyric packed full of ideas and images with an excellent lead and harmony vocal and an inviting sixties Who/Kinks atmosphere. For me this is one of the many highlights on the collection.

9. The Boy You Knew. A thoughtful acoustic guitar bookend, delicate and emotionally raw. ‘…and I’ll never carry my love to your door….and I’ll never bury my love…I’ll sing it now once more…’

https://www.theharrietsband.com/

Mr Ben & the Bens : Life Drawing, LP released July 2020

‘Life Drawing’ is the new LP from Sheffield quartet Mr Ben & the Bens. It is a thoughtfully structured concept album, with each lyric related to life events of characters in an imagined town.

Whatever the thematic intentions it is a collection of contemplative, instrumentally varied vignettes – getting to know them is time well spent, like walking through a gallery of unfamiliar impressionist watercolours.

‘On The Beach’ is a strong melodic opener, with a hook-you-in chorus and a keyboard figure that steals the show. Ben Hall’s voice sounds both naïve and world weary with an extra wistfulness on ‘How Do You Do?’ and rocker ‘Danny’.

The gorgeous sonic musings of ‘Astral Plane’ remind me of Neil Young if he was to inhabit an indie DIY album.

It is a generous LP, twelve tracks give chance for the listener to disappear into this welcoming world, via the daydreams of ‘Minor Keys’ and ‘Beast In The House’ or the hypnotic structural experiments of ‘Walking To An Open Sky’ and disembodied voice on ‘The Wind On Spittlehill’.

‘Irish Rain’ and ‘Closing Time’ are beautiful songs with a plaintive vocal accompanied by a gentle acoustic guitar and piano. ‘Watering Can’ is a rich waltz with a lush arrangement of brass sounds driven along by the rhythmic guitar; it is a fitting end to an exceptional collection.

https://www.facebook.com/mrbenandthebens/Album: Mr Ben & The Bens – Life Drawing review

Bob Dylan : Rough and Rowdy Ways, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of the new album from Bob Dylan, his first collection of original material since 2012.

1. I Contain Multitudes.
Pre-released as a single, over an almost ambient acoustic backing this time spanning meditation places the narrator in the midst of cultural icons and emotional experiences. It would be a central track on a lesser album; here it is one of many major highlights. The line ‘…I play Beethoven sonatas Chopin’s preludes…I contain multitudes…’ could only be rhymed and delivered by Dylan.

2. False Prophet. The tracks on this LP are long, even this loud languid loose but edgy blues clocks in at six minutes. Its like a cut up script for a mythical western, packed with restless one-liners ‘…don’t care what I drink – don’t care what I eat…I climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet..’

3. My Own Version of You. Gothic and comic, the descending chord sequence cascades calmly as a tale of creating an ideal being is laced with name checking, ‘…..I’m gonna make you play the piano like Leon Russell… like Liberace…like St. John the Apostle….’ then encompassing a circle of history and philosophy. An excellent track on first listen then it gets better.

4. I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You. Set to a stately but subtle classical waltz theme this is an unassumingly gorgeous love song. For fans of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ from 1997’s ‘Time Out Of Mind’.

5. Black Rider. A gentle but dark interlude; a jazz guitar chord rolls across the start of each bar as Dylan sings homage, fear and redemption to the title character.

6. Goodbye Jimmy Reed. A bar-room brawl twelve-bar celebrating the influential bluesman (1925-76). Good to hear some harmonica in there too.

7. Mother of Muses. Stately and thoughtful, describing mythology and music history as the narrator draws multiple inspirations before the poignant ending ‘… got a mind to ramble – got a mind to roam….I’m travelin’ light and I’m slow coming home….’

8. Crossing the Rubicon.
Like the opening line of a novel, Dylan pulls the listener in with ‘….I crossed the Rubicon on the 14th day of the most dangerous month of the year….at the worst time at the worst place…’ followed by seven minutes of searing guitar-led but still mellow backing and every verse ending with the title phrase. It is an effective lyrical device, echoing the classic ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’.

9. Key West (Philosopher Pirate). Another lengthy musing, a cryptic travelogue featuring a sleepy accordion and some of the most evocative descriptions on the album, ‘….people tell me that I’m truly blessed…bougainvillea bloomin’ in the summer and spring…winter here is an unknown thing….’

10. Murder Most Foul. This too was pre-released as a single(!) and it is granted a whole extra CD on the album release.
The track is a detailed news description of the assassination of JFK ‘…Zapruder’s film, I’ve seen that before…seen it thirty three times, maybe more…it’s vile and deceitful – it’s cruel and it’s mean…ugliest thing that you ever have seen…they killed him once, they killed him twice…killed him like a human sacrifice..’ weaved through with a celebrity cast, cultural touchstones and influences of the 60s and beyond.
It is a towering achievement; the dense tapestry of words and ideas needs to be savoured at length to be fully appreciated.

http://www.bobdylan.com
 

Bugeye : Ready Steady Bang, LP released July 2020

Following some single releases over the last few months the debut album from London quartet Bugeye arrives…

Opener ‘On And On’ is a disco stomper, spiked with punky edges and although filled with synth swathes it still sounds organic and played live by the band. ‘Breakdown’ has the desperate vocal and staccato rhythms of an early 80s misfit chart song. ‘Shake and Bake’ is enhanced by a sliding keyboard figure, a shouting title line chorus and a psychedelic ‘theremin’ sound somewhere in the mix.

The concise ‘Blue Fire’ has stealthy superdeep bass and sinister overtones and lodges firmly in the brain. Some albums may be running out of steam by this point but ‘When The Lights Go Out’ keeps the energy level up with a banging chorus and rock and roll piano to push the rhythm along then the track evolves into an instrumental electronic spectacular near the end.

I am usually drawn to calendar list songs (…Friday I’m In Love…Manic Monday….) so ‘Sunday Monday’ is immediately interesting with its work-life balance over some great drumming, duelling guitar and a constantly varying backing.

And still four more tracks, including ‘Electric’ a previously released perfectly constructed pop single and a great vocal powerhouse performance on ‘Nightlife’ and ‘Don’t Stop’

Definitely a band to catch live when the time comes – the ten tracks on this LP would form a rich and juicy setlist….

https://www.bugeyeband.co.uk/
https://recklessyes.com/

The Magpies : Tidings, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of ‘Tidings’, the debut LP from contemporary folk quartet The Magpies. Formed in York in 2017, with four vocalists and many different stringed instruments they have drawn together influences and styles to create a rich and rewarding sound.

1. Two Magicians. A traditional song with a lyric describing the sensual shape-shifting antics of the lady and the blacksmith. Mandolin and fiddle weave sinuously around the warm vocal.

2. Catharsis. The instrumental dexterity of the first track goes straight into this gorgeous fast-paced workout. Great production and mix, the band sound like they are in your front room.

3. Run River Run. A considered meditation on the flowing of the river and the passing of time as a resolution for problems. The mid-song instrumental break is sublime.

4. Rock of Ages. A cover of Gillian Welch’s spiritual anthem, showing how the band blend aspects of americana into their sound. Hypnotic and stunningly effective.

5. Foss Island. The violin double-stopping of the introduction gives way to an instrumental that is lighter than air and makes the island of the title sound like the perfect place to be (although it seems to be an inland area near York?). The theme inverts into variations with intricate structures as the track continues.

6. No More Tears.
The expression of emotion is beautifully concise here as the banjo, guitar, violin and cello gently contribute, dusted with harmony vocals and infused with the fragile atmosphere of a forgotten Woody Guthrie song.

7. Shuffle Set.
It is a nicely structured collection, just when you are haunted by the previous track there is instant uplift from the synchronised playing and sparkling solos on this traditional whole band showcase.

8. Galway Shawl.
The longest track on the album, it is nearly seven minutes to develop the languid and mellow feeling of this song, well known in the folk world. It is a tale of a chance meeting filled with poetic details including naming of other songs within the narrative and the repeating motif of the title garment; the descriptions are brought to life by a super vocal performance and complex layering of the instruments. Entrancing and beguiling.

9. Golden Girl. An air of mystery pervades this track, a ghostly story with of course a sad end. The violin shares the counter melody over the brooding chord sequence in this dark but affecting track.

10. Balls To The Wall. An exotic and unpredictable instrumental spectacular, with bouzouki patterns, speed changes and handclaps interweaved with folk dance tempos. An explosive finale to this excellent album.

https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/
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Love Ssega : Celebration, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of the new album ‘Celebration’ by singer/songwriter Love Ssega. I saw him play live in 2017 (see review below), it was a stripped back performance with just jazzy guitar accompaniment but immediately connecting strongly with the audience.

1. Celebration (No Bad News). A polyrhythmic and funky groove with a dissonant edgy backing and a wide-ranging vocal performance. A bold, unrelenting introduction to the collection.

2. Bring the Water. Raising the tempo for this sharply constructed song with the voice jousting and weaving against a neat jumpy bass pattern and intricate percussion.

3. Find Another Way. Mellow marimba and an insistent drum figure provides a smooth platform for a emotive lyric, always leading back into the title line chorus. A great pop song and definitely one of the many highlights on this LP.

4. Rich Forever.
Not the most immediate track on the album but definitely a grower, instruments and extra voices drift in out and through the mix underneath the vivid and strong central vocal performance.

5. Solutions. As the staccato electronica backing oscillates between pairs of chords the narrator ‘…wants solutions…’ but the track builds up and it seems that this of course is left unresolved…

6. Automation. More electronic keyboard pulses and rhythms with the biggest and catchiest hookline on the LP, as the lyric reflects on dehumanisation and the future, ‘…tell your people you love them, not technology….’. I think an early version of this was in the set when I saw him back in 2017, it is a powerful song and sentiment and probably my favourite track on the album.

7. Save Me. Another track where the adept playing and production enhance and fully realise the musical and lyrical ideas. Driven by bass and drums and an excellent vocal the soulful groove is a satisfying end to album.

https://www.lovessega.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/09/05/mary-epworth-norwich-arts-centre-2-september-2017/
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Kirsty Merryn : Our Bright Night, LP released April 2020

A track by track review of the new LP from singer/songwriter/pianist Kirsty Merryn, an ambient-folk concept album of snapshots and musings from dusk till dawn.

1. Twilight. A distant piano, freed of time constraints drifts and sustains as a bookend to the songs. When the voice and other acoustic instruments arrive the scene is set.

2. The Banks of the Sweet Primroses (feat Phil Beer). Straight into this traditional tune, Kirsty’s pure voice tells a tale of a dark ambiguous encounter, nicely tempered by a subtle violin.

3. Constantine (feat Alex Alex). The piano is back at the forefront for this gentle and unhurried duet of love and longing ‘…hold me in your arms…only you can keep me safe…’

4. Mary. Stepping the tempo up, Kirsty delivers a winning vocal with variations on ‘…Mary…say you’ll come walking with me…’ in this concisely structured folkpop track.

5. Our Bright Night.
Over an atmospheric drone from a shruti box, the vocal takes on an extra sparkling clarity in this timeless reflection.

6. The Deep | The Wild | The Torrent. Probably my favourite track on the collection, one to lose yourself in like some island landscape. The graceful waltzing chord sequence is laced through with many instrumental contributions that embrace the voice and lyric to perfection.

7. Outlandish Knight. A version of another traditional tale, steamy and sinister with mysterious and mythical overtones, augmented by the tension in the music.

8. Little Fox. Sparse and concise, a sweet melody with an undercurrent of the dark woods.

9. Shanklin Chine (feat Sam Kelly). The tree-lined gorge in the Isle of Wight is the evocative backdrop to the duo’s contrasting vocals and some neat twists in the melody. The sombre story doesn’t end well ‘….at Shanklin Chine the jagged rocks would be her only marriage bed…’

10. Thieves of Whitehall. A contemporary comment set to a melody and backing that could be from an older tradition.

11. The Wake. A return to the purity of simple piano and voice, this is another favourite track for me, packed with poetic imagery ‘….or the freezing air should take a hold in June…….and the grass that grows will remind me of our parting…and the grass grows long…’ Gorgeous.

12. Dawn. The final instrumental, as the excellent musical vignettes of the night fade but linger in the memory…

https://www.kirstymerryn.com/

Various Artists : Now That’s What I Call The Portland, LP released May 2020

A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).

1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.

2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.

3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.

4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.

5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.

6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.

7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.

8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.

9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.

10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.

11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.

12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.

13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.

14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.

15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.

16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.

17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.

https://theportlandarms.bandcamp.com/album/now-thats-what-i-call-the-portland
http://www.theportlandarms.co.uk