Tag Archives: LP

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

 

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Volume 4, released 13th December 2019

Cambridge Calling Volume 4 is a new compilation of tracks from musicians based around the Cambridge area, with proceeds going to Emmaus – a charity which aims to reduce homelessness.

1. The Rugs – Blame It On Me Upfront, sparse rocker driven by a guitar counterline and some well-placed handclaps.
2. Colour Sergeant – Now it’s colour Dense ambient layers and creative sampling make a spectral, descending waterfall. A luminous three minutes.
3. ncklcng – Sleeper in the Valley This one is a bit of a grower, busy and accomplished jazz-funk with sax and sharp bass.
4. Kammahav – MLIRIR An acoustic version of the track from their second EP, standing for ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ and a mystery extra IR? ‘…fields full of skeletons….students on courses reciting white horses….’ populate the lyric as a strong rhythm guitar drives along like Gordon Giltrap’s cult instrumental hit ‘Heartsong’.
5. Luke James Williams – Still In Bed Brilliant song and performance, as previously reviewed on this site ‘…Sung with passion it is a standout track; a simple but stunningly effective ascending and descending guitar line is the only accompaniment to the emotionally raw lyric, coupled with a very attractive melody….’
6. RJ Archer and the Painful Memories – It’s Snowing In Hell As previously reviewed on this site ‘….adding an extra energy to the insistent riff, always returning to that great title line,‘…you tell me that you’re doing well, it must be snowing in hell…..’ With the gradually increasing desolation of the vocal it is a mini Tarantino movie soundtrack….’
7. SENEX IV – Valentine Dark rock from trio drilling deep into the mineshaft of Ziggy Stardust glam overlaid with a lovelorn lyric that doesn’t give up.
8. Moonstrips – Nothing Like You This has the initial flavour of echoey detachment of an early Pink Floyd piece then by adding extra noise to a full dense mix, the trio deliver a powerful rock song.
9. Kyanos – Egypt This four-piece draw on psychedelic and dream-like pop to construct a mainly instrumental piece which after gentle synths and a brief vocal sojourn surprisingly starts to rock out.
10. Cong-Fusion – Turned Tables Jazzy and with an 80s smooth sheen, this is an appealing and spirited pop song, embellished by electric piano, brass and a strong lead vocal.
11. Tribes of Europe – Intermission Sounding like it is straight from an imaginary film soundtrack, full of wide-open spaces and a restrained foreboding.
12. Annie Dresner – Nyack One of the brightest talents on the Cambridge indie-folk scene with a wistful reminiscence set over a gentle guitar and piano.
13. Absolute Beginners – Here Tonight Like a meandering river this sociable folky-rock track flows by and is a bit of a grower, winningly enhanced by the moog synth solo.
14. Pink Lemonade – Space Girl The poptastic trio have a new EP out but this is where their recordings started, as reviewed on this site previously ‘….they were out in the cosmos for two and a half minutes of power pop ‘….surfing the waves of the Milky Way…not your usual Friday, hey!…’, a burst of energy featuring a na na na na chorus, fuzzy guitar and as much outer space terminology as they can cram into the grooves. Follow that!…’
15. Slava B. – Games of System Singer/songwriter from Wisbech, sounding like more than a full band and with very distinctive vocals crossing between doom metal and The Ukrainians.
16. Future Now – Dying Universe Full-on rocker with prog rock storytelling and even though the song has many sections and paces there is no letup in the intensity over nearly seven minutes, good to hear the extended guitar solo ending too.
17. Karalinga – The Old Man Another track that grows in stature with each listen, reviewed on this site previously ‘… Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line….’
18. Amethysts – Stones The gorgeous signature track by this soulful electronic duo; the voices, keys and guitar which sounds excellent live have transferred stylishly to this recording.
19. Lo-Grade Lawrence – Purple Pyramid An instrumental featuring dense layers of synthesisers, built around a steadily wandering theme and bass tone, garnished with other-worldly drums and percussion.

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cambridge-calling-volume-4

Various Artists : The Sounds Your Dreams Make, LP released November 2019

Subtitled ‘An Everlasting Compilation’, here is a selection of artists from the Cambridge-based record label…

1. The Jims – The A to Z of You and Me A leisurely instrumental bookend, featuring acoustic guitar, bass and xylophone with a hint of percussion. A dissonant piano interrupts creatively towards the end.
2. Victorian Tin – Silver and Perfume This one is strangely addictive, with shades of 80s cult popsters Japan as it features roving bass slidings and a world-weary vocal.
3. Bug Teeth – Emily A double note on acoustic guitar provides the rhythym and melodic structure of the song as the ethereal vocals enchant for this heavenly two minutes.
4. Karalinga – The Old Man Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line.
5. Ivan Campo – Magic A short pastoral interlude. Woodwind and acoustics weave a spell featuring shows and shamen with sinister undertones.
6. Lizard Brain – Am I Just A Dub I haven’t heard one of these for a while, an echong, sparse percussion and bass infused remix of an existing track – this one from the band’s cornucopia album ‘Stray’.
7. A J Jackson – World In A Wheel This is a wandering, speculative track that always returns to the strong hookline. The relaxed vocal delivery and circularity of the song reminds me of 80s pop minor-masterpiece ‘Kiss Me’ by Stephen Duffy.
8. Stenbit – Vanished From Earth Electronic meanderings certainly conjure up a cosmic journey. Meteoric pulsing interjections and a distant phone ringing(?) make it all a bit unsettling.
9. The New Fools – Oh Steven, Why? A fine waltzing Smiths-style song carries a coruscating lyric that acknowledges the impact made by the band before describing the fall from grace of their lead singer.
10. Smoothy – Bad Television A chiming, lingering riff gives shape to the plaintive vocal and sentiments in this thoughtful piece. The bass burrows around under the stately beat as the guitar gradually takes over.
11. Ollie Jackson – Let’s Be Clear One of my favourite tracks on the compilation, a rolling acoustic guitar beguiles under a quietly despairing vocal and affecting melody.
12. Kammahav – I’m Hers, She’s Gone Lovelorn and a bit confused about the loss of a relationship, the narrator sums up the ambiguity over a reassuring acoustic rock background.
13. Captain Crylaugh (featuring Bug Teeth) – We Two Boys Together Clinging Acoustic and electronic loops merge into rewarding strata as Bug Teeth adds the spectral vocal magic again.
14. Schaum – This Film There is plenty of time for the ideas in this carefully constructed track to develop. It could accompany a long aerial view of a city at night in a dystopian black and white movie.

https://www.facebook.com/everlastingrecords/
https://thenewfools.bandcamp.com/album/various-artists-the-sound-your-dreams-make

Psychic Lemon : Freak Mammal, LP released 8th November 2019

An excellent new long-player from Cambridge experimenters Psychic Lemon arrives on the back of their coruscating live album released in May this year.

Dedicated to the late Stephen Hawking,‘Freak Mammal’ is five tracks of force-field intensity, beginning with the statement of intent that is ‘Dark Matter’ – astronomers say that this is the stuff that makes up most of the Universe and much of that substance seems to be present in this enormous track.
It all seems so calm at first as a soothing electro-keyboard repeats over the steadily building drums until the arrival of a sky-soaring guitar. One of the great attributes of an electric guitar is that it can be made to sound like anything but a guitar and this track proves that, especially at high volume.
Seven and a half minutes in and the music starts to dismantle itself into component parts; the drum pattern breaks into a rush of cymbals underneath a guitar solo of improbably sustained notes until the whole mighty machine crashes in again for the rest of the song.

The slower ‘Seeds Of Tranquility’ is a more contemplative thirteen minutes, driven by the bass octave stretching and muted complex percussion. Perhaps inspired by the unchanging melancholy of the lunar surface it feels timeless and far away.
Then ‘Afrotropic Bomb’ steps back up a gear, this time a distorted keyboard and bass riff is the musical chassis that the song is built on (a song without words; like all of this and their last LP Psychic Lemon have dispensed with the vocals and evolved the psychedelic experience into its purest form).

The ambiguously titled ‘Free Electron Collective’ is a relentless drum pattern workout, in some ways the most immediate track on the album and would certainly be a highlight of their live show.

The Velvet Underground reference in the title of ‘White Light’ gives a clue to the hammerhead pounding of this finale but I don’t know if the VU ever quite mustered this energy level on their recorded instrumental digressions. Previewed on Psychic Lemon’s ‘Live at the Smokehouse’ album this track shows how adept the Cambridge three-piece are at recreating not just the sound but the whole all-consuming onslaught of their live performances.

http://psychiclemon.co.uk/

Derecho : Beneath A Stained Glass Sky, LP released November 2019

A track by track review of the new album ‘Beneath A Stained Glass Sky’ from four-piece rock band Derecho (a tornado that moves in a straight line)….

1. You Stole My Heart Starting with an accelerating drum call this opening salvo is a classic rocker. Singer and composer Jo Ash makes her presence felt with a powerful vocal, as the guitar slices in with organ backing and the big chorus is never too far away.

2. Red Ivy A gentle piano verse gives way to the surprising and dynamic chorus and it is all a bit dark (‘…so seduce me with your poison…’). I particularly like the instrumental interludes where the band have their chances to shine but Jo’s soaring voice is the centrepiece of the track.

3. Numb To Shame A bold statement of intent in the first few bars turns into a taut, twisting, mid-paced three minutes.

4. Fight or Flight Conjuring up the atmosphere of 80s metalpop classic ‘Run To The Hills’, this one moves quickly to its killer chorus. A waterfall of keyboard provides a brief soothing interlude.

5. Blue Heart An effective swampy blues re-working of a piano waltz from Jo Ash’s solo album (reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/10/14/jo-ash-constellations-lp-released-october-2018/)

6. Pushing Me Away The band really go for it on this one; a mixture of stealthy verse framed by sinister, echoing keys and building up into a soaring refrain as the drums steal the show.

7. Oxygen A dark lyric ‘…suffocate my mind…strip my lungs of air…‘ contrasts with a backing that rolls along deceptively uptempo and optimistic.

8. Nowhere Land (Into The Black Hole) Inspired by the film Interstellar this is one of the longest tracks on the album, a slow-burning, anthemic piece. Jo’s clear voice sails along in the upper registers as the music veers into prog-rock stylings, with a marching synthesised string section eventually unleashing the dark hordes of Mordor.

9. Lunar Light
The lyric combines poetic imagery with the idea that the Moon can influence a personality ‘….under the light, lunar light…….is this really you? madden my senses, make me pretend I’m safe….’ This song has a retro 70s glam-rock feel to it, the combination of piano/guitar riff with the theatricality of the words works a treat.

10. Mountains A bold, broad finishing track, giving plenty of time to set the mood with a recurring figure dominated by the bass end of the piano. Jo’s voice goes through a range of distortion, to an emotive chorus and back again.
Another showcase too for the other band members and the production; making key contributions to this excellent rock album.

(Album launch show is at the Blue Moon, Cambridge on Saturday 16th November…)

http://www.derecho.band/#home-1-section

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/

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/