Category Archives: Reviews

Introducing…Mall Walk

Though just starting less than a year ago, the upcoming Mall Walk EP reveals the band to already be compulsively listenable and exceptionally sophisticated. Just a few months after the band’s inception, the trio started working with producer-engineer Monte Vallier (Weekend, The Soft Moon, Terry Malts) at San Francisco’s Ruminator Audio Studio to create an EP that is alternately infectious and gritty, spare and expansive, world-weary and inspired. The collaborative self-titled Mall Walk EP will be released tomorrow (October 14) via singer-guitarist Rob I. Miller’s small label Vacant Stare Records. My Old Kentucky Blog premiered the first track, Teen Missing.

Drummer Nicholas Clark and bassist Daniel Brown represent the muscle behind the EP, whereas Miller takes a deliberately restrained, tactical approach to guitar playing. On Teen Missing, the cyclical exchange between bass and drums promises something surfy and rollicking, only for the song to conclude with two minutes of anarchic guitar that subverts expectations considerably. With Treadmill, the band constructs a huge, immersive space with as little as possible while Miller describes life as a boring slog through semi-comical disappointments. Yet the repeated refrain, Life is just grand, I know, conceivably becomes less sarcastic as the band finds release within the song’s repetitive phrasing. The track that best represents Mall Walk’s maturity, the concluding Pales in Comparison possesses a simplicity and apparent effortlessness you typically expect from a band that is many, many years old.

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Apherium To Release New EP, Neoteric

Formed during their college days in 2011 and coming at you from Yeovil, Apherium soon forged a sturdy bond and quickly put out their debut album The Cycle the following year. The album was a steep learning curve for the quartet yet they soon discovered how to better cultivate their sound and reflect on their song writing. The melodic metallers reshaped their set during 2013 and began to spread their wings racking up a series of successful shows in London, Midlands, South Wales and throughout the South West. The band then bunkered down in preparation for their new EP, entitled Neoteric, which is slated for a reboot this September and is rammed with sonic sledgehammer fists-in-the-air choruses and explosive rhythms that promise to melt your ears.

The EP propels to life with the driving opener New Light which boasts duelling guitar lines, magnificently layered vocals and progressive phrasing. The pounding groove and dynamic Silver Tongues then comes over you with soaring riffs and a colossal refrain that will hang in the air for eons. The record soon presses on with Angels Of Our Nature which twists and effortlessly gleams with true potency before the brilliance of their past single Shadows attacks your senses. Lastly, Rise Again closes the EP, balancing melodic hooks with razor sharp riffery, as the cut draws proceedings to a fitting conclusion. With the national launch of the EP lined up for September and the foursome ready to hit the UK with widespread touring, look out for extensive shows soon to be announced for the remainder of the year.

Neoteric is set for release on September 22 2014.

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Sinkane Releases New Track, New Name, Prior To Release Of His New Album, Mean Love

With the release of his inspired and eclectic new album Mean Love being tomorrow, Sinkane reveals another new cut and confirms new London shows, including a Rough Trade East instore on Sept 1 and a second London headline show.

In addition to the free album launch show at The Shacklewell Arms on Sept 12, Sinkane will play at London’s Oslo on Dec 1 with a full UK tour soon to be added.

You can listen to the latest cut, New Name here.

Sinkane

Sinkane

Melodically beat-driven and meditatively lyrical, Sinkane’s Mean Love rolls like an emotional, existential history of the artist. Ahmed Gallab has created an altogether unique compound of sound, stylistically nostalgic and ultramodern at the same time.

From Gallab’s childhood in Sudan there is a Pan-African influence of popular Sudanese music and haqibah as well as distinct horn and synth arrangements more common to East Africa. This background merges with the lessons learned from Ahmed‘s stints with obsessive craftsmen such as Caribou, Yeasayer and Of Montreal and especially the monumental task he underwent as musical director of ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor.

Gallab excavated and arranged a treasure trove of lost classics from the West African synth-pioneer to put together a now legendary series of performances. Alongside his band-mates in Sinkane (jaytram on drums, Ish Montgomery on bass, Jonny Lam on guitar), he also brought on guests Damon Albarn, David Byrne, The Lijadu Sisters, Money Mark and members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture and Blood Orange.

The experiences from this on-going endeavour contribute to the collective feel of the record and attest to his uncanny ability to embrace and assemble a huge history as pure and generous modern-musical expressions. Employing the architecture of pop and a forward-thinking approach to its classic instrumentation, the vibes of Sinkane’s deep-groove past remain intact, in full force.

There are doses of West African funk slow-burners, a noir blaxploitation cool and a more afro-centric Curtis Mayfield is present, specifically in album standout Hold Tight. A surprising country soul rising is detectable in the title track Mean Love and also in the hauntingly beautiful slide guitar work of Galley Boys a la such soul heavyweights as James Carr and Solomun Burke.

Mean Love will be released September 1 internationally on City Slang (and on DFA Records in North America).

Look for Sinkane on tour this fall as the band embarks on a run of dates in the EU in September and a nationwide tour of the US in October.

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Kongos Release Their Debut Album, Lunatic, Next Month

Currently cutting a swathe through the USA, Kongos release their debut album Lunatic in the UK on September 11 via Epic Records. Already a huge – and critically acclaimed – hit in North America and South Africa, Lunatic is a dramatic, exciting and vital collection of songs that showcases these four brothers’ gift for beautiful songwriting, soulful grit and sheer rock power.

With Greek blood in their veins, a childhood spent in Britain and South Africa and their family home now located in Phoenix, Arizona, Dylan, Danny, Jesse and Johnny Kongos are the sons of legendary British singer-songwriter John Kongos, most famous for his 1971 Top 10 single, He’s Gonna Step On You Again, which Happy Mondays covered for their 1990 hit Step On.

Kongos

Kongos

The multi-instrumentalist brothers bring an eclectic melting pot of influences to their musical stew. Raw guitar rock, tribal rhythms, Balkan beats, electronic flourishes, reggae tinges, folk-driven accordions, Southern blues and alternating levels of twisted darkness and gentle melodies call to mind the varied sounds of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Killers, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, QOTSA, Crowded House, Paul Simon, Kings Of Leon and Radiohead.

The likes of I’m Only Joking, an ominous, brooding stomp full of strange chants and hypnotic rhythms, Hey I Don’t Know with its epic, stomping, electrifying chorus and Kids These Days, full of riff-based drama and arch vocals, demonstrate the passionate rock edge that Kongos possess, leading them to be guests on Kings Of Leon’s mammoth Mechanical Bull US tour this summer.

But elsewhere Kongos flex their musical muscles in unexpected ways. As We Are is a gentle, accordion-based love song full of space and beauty, Travelling On features a delicate acoustic guitar and Neil Finn-esque vocals, It’s A Good Life boasts unusual, South African rhythms and This Time I Won’t Forget is reflective and dreamy with a strident, harmonious chorus.

Sex On The Radio, I Want To Know and Take Me Back all possess striking melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and huge, bold choruses guaranteed to stick around your head for days, demonstrating the band’s knack for writing classic pop songs.

However it’s the growling roar of Come With Me Now which has really exploded for the band. Having spent five consecutive weeks at Number One on the Billboard Alternative Chart in America (and beating Lorde’s Royals in the process to become the fastest-ever ascent to Number One by a debut artist in US chart history) it’s now crossed over to the Hot 100 and is fast-becoming a ubiquitous summer anthem from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts.

Soon to be released in the UK as the band’s debut single (following I’m Only Joking which is currently available free via iTunes and picking up UK radio spins on Radio 1, XFM and Bauer stations), Come With Me Now heralds Kongos as a global force to be reckoned with.

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Introducing…James Abberley

Since releasing his debut album (Some Kind Of Relief) in 2011, James has supported the likes of Xavier Rudd during his Spirit Bird tour, Ash Grunwald and the Boys from The Living End during their Gurgantua tour. In 2014 James released his second record, a five track EP recorded at home by the name of (Boy).

Secret Keeper is the brand new single from James that was recorded in his home studio over the course of a few months.

James Abberley

James Abberley

“It was one of those songs that I just kept coming back to, it came through so simply which made it feel like it was unfinished or missing something. But I have found that some songs work best in their most basic form and Secret Keeper I felt was one of them,” James says of the new single.

Secret Keeper is a song about a close friend of James Abberley’s. One of those people that others always seem to volunteer their deepest secrets and darkest tales to, who is then made to promise that they will never tell another soul for as long as they shall live. And so Secret Keeper was born.

Secret Keeper is a simple folk tune with no intended chorus or song structure, the song builds and evolves much like the secrets that the Secret Keeper holds. One of James’ influences, Laura Marling, uses this same roller coaster type progression in her music, almost as though the song is more of a lifetime recaptured than a traditionally written song. James mellow vocals and honest songwriting is an intriguing and comforting sound which come to a head in his new single, Secret Keeper.

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Ark Life – The Dream Of You & Me Album Review

From 2007 to 2012, songwriter Jesse Elliott led rock & roll band These United States through five studio albums and nearly 1,000 live performances in the U.S., Canada and Europe, appearing everywhere from Glastonbury to SXSW, Daytrotter to Lollapalooza and garnering praise from NPR, The New York Times, SPIN, KEXP and others.

The Dream of You & Me is the debut record from Ark Life, a new project fronted by Elliott. In early 2013, Elliott stopped in Denver on his way to a new life in New York and started making music with pianist Lindsay Giles, bassist Anna Morsett (of TUS), guitarist Natalie Tate and veteran Denver drummer Ben Desoto. The result was Ark Life, a project that has now shared the stage with Ringo Starr, The Head & the Heart, Ryan Bingham and more. Produced by Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats, The Dream of You & Me is made up of equal parts mischief and heartthrob, inspired by the band’s enduring love for CCR, Tom Petty, Motown and the campfire singalong.

Ark Life

Ark Life

Ark Life recently premiered What You Want To on Purevolume which is taken from their debut album. What You Want To has some brilliant thought-provoking lyrics, “I should have folded that letter/I should have looked for a phone/I should not smile at these strangers/I should pack up and depart/But the heaviest weight on my heart/Is not what I should do/But what I want to…” What You Want To is a little bit Jackson 5 in places; the tempo, the funk inspired keyboard and the soulful vocals all aid this. What You Want To is a marvellous blend of good and strong mind-opening lyrics, Americana, Folk, Jazz and Funk.

Contrasting this upbeat sound, You’re With Me follows What You Want To. You’re With Me is a ballad featuring female vocals to start with in a gospel inspired, harmonic setting. It’s such an angelic beginning to a song making it perfectly beautiful. The harmonies are gorgeous and silky. This track is so simple consisting of vocals and piano with the occasional help from the bass drum or an odd electric guitar chord. It’s a pure song with pure lyrics, “If they ask who snuck you in/Say me baby/If they want to know who took you in/Just say me”. You’ll fall in love with this track – guaranteed.

Molly Brown brings the beat back. It’s straight back to the upbeat Americana style. Molly Brown has an addictive melody and feel to it. It’s just a briliant, uplifting number with Elliot’s odd yet attractive vocals.

While Molly Brown is uplifting in one sense of the word, She is uplifting in a different way. There’s a very strong rock & roll feel to this track. If you’ve heard Imelda May, whose tracks feature that typical Blues guitar tone, then you’ll probably love this track. She is a little bit like the sort of sound Robert Plant and Alison Krauss brought to the limelight a few years ago with their Raising Sand album.

Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) finishes the album nicely. It has a jazzy, soft feel with an incredibly catchy chorus and blissful harmonies. Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) is simple but effective. In some ways, it could be seen as Elliot’s way of saying goodbye to the one band (These United States) and welcoming his new adventures with the next, “There comes a time in every man’s life/Shoot shoot the best of me/When they can’t dance….Has to settle down and find himself a good loot…Shoot shoot he tries/Maybe a saxophone can get him back right…”

Rock & Roll (Take It Easy) is the perfect ending track to an absolutely magnificent debut album. Ark Life’s The Dream Of You & Me will leave you speechless. You’ll be feeling uplifted, reminiscent, questioning and wondering all at the same time. The lyrics are astonishingly open, clever and worldly while the music is joyful and vintage yet fresh.

Ark Life’s The Dream Of You & Me is out on August 19 on Misra Records/Greater Than Collective.

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Alison May – Loved/Dark Album Review

Alison May is a folk singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who has been performing, writing and recording out of Oakland, CA since relocating from Texas in 2012. Her change of scenery seemed to awaken a more layered and experimental side which is carefully captured in her sophomore release, Loved/Dark. She started tracking without any prepared arrangements and instead opted to let each track speak through experimentation. Ultimately she found the right instrumentations, making Loved/Dark the result of patient layering and wild guesses as to what would fulfil the potential of each song.

The album starts with Not Pictured, But Present which is a short yet dramatic instrumental number before My Own Good. My Own Good is the first track with vocals as Not Pictured, But Present is absent of this. My Own Good shows off May’s unusual vocals – they’re airy yet with those distinct slightly deeper, bass like tones. The song builds and becomes hectic towards the end but this just adds to the track to make it feel alive and totally real. It’s a brilliant track to have near the start of this superb album.

Helen is the opposite of My Own Good. It’s upbeat and a totally indulgent summer track. There’s inspiration taken from jazz heard on the acoustic guitar. Not only are there strong jazz elements coming forward from the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar is very apparent in this song. It’s one of the central instruments for the rhythm in most tracks but this song has the distinctive, echoing electric guitar riff carrying the melody as well as parts of the rhythm. Helen is hard to place into a genre – it’s just a feel good folk/jazz track that breaks boundaries both musically and vocally. The vocals are sketchy, wild and uncontrollable which makes this track powerful and passionate.

Alison May Loved/Dark

Groundbreaking folk singer/songwriter, Alison May

A few tracks on and Bad Timing makes its appearance. This song is a space filled song, if that makes sense. There’s an absence of music here. There’s the drum cymbals crashing, quite a repetitive acoustic guitar riff and a bass guitar heard on the odd note and that’s about it. This idea of exclusion of lots of instruments actually empowers this song more. It leaves room for the song to breath, to expand and to become something much more soulful. It’s simplicity at its best – at its best as it actually feels like there’s lots more going on here than there is.

Ophelia is next with its gentle, soothing, jazz inspired soft drum beat and brilliant acoustic guitar riffs. Ophelia has a breathtakingly beautiful swaying melody which only intensifies May’s unique voice.

Raft is a previous release but you’ll never get bored of hearing its beautiful slightly unusual riff on the guitar which is repeated throughout and really gets stuck in your head. This is one of the songs that you are bound to remember after hearing this record. The lyrics are sung beautifully, reminding me of an American summer road trip, running to escape from everything, “Keep out…I’ll leave town if you ever came looking for me” You can find a sense of freedom and peace in this track; it brings to mind ideas of hazy summer evenings, a love lost, a sense of a new beginning and all of this happening while being surrounded by nature and purity. It’s simply beautiful.

The end track, 10×2, is a little bit Jeff Buckley on the echoing guitar riff and the entirely solemn nature of the vocals. It’s a saddening song to end on but one that demonstrates just how triumphant an album Loved/Dark is.

Loved/Dark is out now.

 

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