Recorded Music Reviews

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All Our Album, Single and EP reviews are listed here in "blog" style. Just scroll down to find the rest of them.

Lauren Pritchard - "the jackson sessions" EP

posted 19 Apr 2010, 12:14 by Harry Cooke   [ updated 19 Apr 2010, 12:25 ]

[Island Records]
Released: 3rd May 2010

by Amy Greene

Something new from the gorgeous folk at Island who always seem to be slightly ahead of the curve, here is one to keep an eye on. Lauren Pritchard is currently touring music colleges and venues around the country and I'll certainly be going to see her. The four songs on the ep are exciting and intense whilst remaining loose enough to avoid sounding over produced, no mean feat in our days of ubiquitous auto tune.  

The title track was co-written with Ed Harcourt and produced by Marcus Mumford which bears testament to Pritchard's burgeoning talent, and her sound; there aren't many new artists who can claim an association with such folk but she certainly warrants one. 

'the jackson sessions' is varied in tone and gives an idea of the range of Pritchard's forthcoming album 'Wasted in Jackson'. Her Tennessean roots are evident in the vocal on 'stuck' and 'bad time to fall' where she makes Joss Stone seem a real pretender in the soul stakes with her rich vocal. Despite all of that she still sounds like she has more to offer. 

The eponymous 'When the Night Kills the Day' includes gorgeous piano, strings, lots of percussion, banjo (I think??) and the result is a song which manages to sound simultaneously languid and urgent, the only words I can find for this original new artist.

As the ep is being marketed in association with, who are currently offering a free copy, you can check her out yourself. 

I would go and see her and soon, in a small venue, just so you can say 'I was there...' A superb new talent. 


White Belt Yellow Tag – Always and Echoes

posted 8 Apr 2010, 02:11 by Joe Richardson   [ updated 8 Apr 2010, 02:14 ]

[Distiller Records]

Released: 29th March 2010

by T. McGee


In anticipation of the release of their debut album Methods on 5th April, White Belt Yellow Tag unveil Always & Echoes, an impressive 4-track EP that more than adequately showcases their uniquely morose and strangely captivating sound.


The first track, Always & Echoes, from which the EP takes its name, is definitely the strongest of the four, displaying a raw passion and poetic craftsmanship that is reminiscent of Doves and Editors. The lyrics, which speak of the tortuous mundaneness of everyday life and the joyous escapism offered by romance and passion are delivered with a confident, yet sensibly restrained vocal performance, while the belting guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats infuse the track with frenzied energy and morose lethargy in equal measure.


The following tracks, Postcards and You Have No Friends are also impressive and, while they may possess slightly less vigour than the title track, they maintain the same appealing tone and pace. The final track, We All Have Sound (Rhysmix Vs Wahs Mix) adds a little extra variety to the EP, combining the band’s melancholy sound with a snappy club beat resulting in a melody that comes across as oddly catchy, if a little out of place.


All in all, Always & Echoes provides an impressive taste of what White Belt Yellow Tag are all about. A band that clearly wears its influences on its sleeve – to the extent that they at times sound a little too similar to their cohorts – WBYT nevertheless possess for the most part an ability to stand out from the crowd. With a likeable sound, passionate performers and an abundance of talent, this EP is clearly just the beginning. White Belt Yellow Tag could well go on to big things.



The Candle Thieves - Sunshine & Other Misfortunes

posted 3 Apr 2010, 09:39 by Harry Cooke   [ updated 3 Apr 2010, 09:59 ]

Carnival Town Records
Released: 5th April 2010

by Harry Cooke

I've been really looking forward to listening to "Sunshine & Other Misfortunes". Having seen the care and attention put into every aspect of the band, from their look, the style of their album artwork, to their superb videos, I was keen to hear the culmination of all this subtle effort. 

Last year we ran a video-blog that the band recorded from their trip to New York and ever since then I'd been caught up by their wonderful enthusiasm and optimism. Then, luckily for me coincidences do happen, and the day "Sunshine & Other Misfortunes" landed on my doormat I opened the paper to discover The Candle Thieves were kicking off their tour of fan's living rooms just down the road from me, and even better it was in my old local pub (pictured).

Coincidence, hope, and optimism are all present in the musical world that The Candle Thieves have created around them. The opening track is also the first single to be released and "We're All Gonna Die (Have Fun)" has a feel of an upbeat Eels track, and wouldn't be out of place on any American College movie. 

The feel-good factor is high, but as the name of the track suggests there are much deeper messages and feelings that run through the album than the child's glockenspiel or the toy piano that are played would suggest. These instruments weren't chosen for for visual effect, but for specific sounds they can create that fit the track.

For me the stand out tracks are "Sharks and Bears", and now that spring is showing it's first signs of bursting out, the wonderful "The Sunshine Song". There is a recurring theme throughout the album about dreaming, and although the lyrics can read as extremely depressing ("Sometimes I dream of drowning, or falling down the stairs") they always manage to end on a high ("So don't let go, the best is yet to come").

This album fits many moods, there are great party tracks, lazy Sunday afternoon tracks, and beautifully crafted melodies to just sit and listen to, but as an album they all fit together like lego to create a colourful, playful masterpiece.


Subsource – The Ides

posted 3 Apr 2010, 02:17 by Joe Richardson   [ updated 3 Apr 2010, 02:21 ]

[Doombox Records]

Released 29th March 2010

by Ash Mitchell

Combining the music of The Prodigy and the vocals of Pendulum, Subsource offers us their latest single The Ides for our musical consideration. Fusing rock and dance together is not by any means uncharted territory especially in recent years with The Prodigy making a triumphant return to the limelight and bands such as Enter Shikari and Hadouken! on the up and up, Subsource however have taken a different take on this genre by having a motive to their music, stating that they were ‘Fucked off with so-called live dance acts mincing behind laptops, and rock acts with no more substance than the product in their hair, things had to change.’  So have they managed to succeed in their quest for change? The short answer is... no.

The Ides sets out to be a floor filling anthem but lacks the hook needed to pull it off and instead feels repetitive and no different from anything that has already been done before by the other groups already mentioned. The vocals and music alike, although good, are repetitive and don’t offer anything new to a genre which seems to have reached the extremes of what can be done with it. Unfortunately for Subsource they seem to a little slow off the mark and consequently feel like they could be a cover band for the genre’s already well established artists.

In summary The Ides fails to add anything to a genre which already feels like it has been pushed to its limits of creativity, there is certainly talent present in Subsource’s music, it’s just a few years too late.


The Chemists – This City

posted 2 Apr 2010, 04:59 by Joe Richardson   [ updated 2 Apr 2010, 05:03 ]

[Distiller Records]

Released: 29th March 2010

by Fred Palmer

With a raw, passionate sound, catchy lyrics and a surreal music video starring Richard E Grant as a befuddled robot man, The Chemists burst onto the scene with their new EP “This City”, which follows the release of their debut albumThe Theories of Dr. Lovelock several months ago.

 The Chemists represent a refreshing return to rock in its purest form – frontman Johnny Benn’s vocals are sharp and penetrating and the track’s belting guitar riffs, thumping drum beats and dark, angry lyrics contribute to the single’s raw, edgy tone, creating a sound that is reminiscent of both Editors and Doves only starker and heavier.

 The chorus stands out as a truly infectious piece of lyrical craftsmanship and the oddball music video is also worth a mention, with its clever crosscutting between a live band performance and Mr Grant’s eccentric method acting, culminating in the latter crashing the live set as he attempts to find his robotic power source. It’s a fine ambassador for the single and also probably Richard E Grant’s second best film ever, after Withnail & I. By all means, give it a watch.

 To sum up,This City” proves to be a joyous return to basic rock, an asset of The Chemists that is difficult to ignore due to the sheer volume of samey indie pap that continues to dominate the music scene. Joyously aggressive and fantastically basic - keep your eye on these guys.



Ash – War With Me

posted 31 Mar 2010, 10:28 by Joe Richardson   [ updated 31 Mar 2010, 10:41 by Harry Cooke ]

[Atomic Heart Records]

Released: 29th March 2010

by Fred Palmer


Ash round off the first half of their A-Z series with “War With Me”, which represents letter M in their 26 single mission. So as the Irish rockers reach the halfway line, what can be said of their latest effort and what kind of light does it cast their ambitious campaign in?


Generally, “War With Me” comes across as exactly what you would expect for the mid-way track of a 26 single run, in that it is completely and utterly mediocre. Pleasant, but not a patch on their former standards. Indeed, from a band that produced such joyously thrashy, punk-esque  hits as “Orpheus”, “Sometimes” and “Shining Light”, this plodding ballad seems like something of a betrayal.


That said, “War With Me” has several positive points. The chorus is incredibly catchy and it would be impossible to fault the band’s overall tight delivery, which continues to convey their passion, talent and general charm. Nevertheless, the track’s syrupy lyrics, ambling piano melody and overall aimlessness highlight the letter M as a forgettable entry within Ash’s alphabet series.


With any luck, they will be back on form before too long. However, this rather poor addition to the band’s body of work casts doubt on their ability to complete this A-Z campaign with their credibility in tact and begs the inevitable question – what the hell are they going to be churning out by the time they get to letter Z?



Scouting For Girls – This Ain’t A Love Song

posted 29 Mar 2010, 02:24 by Joe Richardson

[Epic Records]

Released: 29th March 2010

by Fred Palmer

After a somewhat lengthy absence, Scouting For Girls, kings of the catchy indie/pop movement return with a new single “This Ain’t A Love Song”, a precursor to their second album “Everybody Wants To Be On TV” (released 12th April). Their re-emergence brings up two questions. What took them so long? And will their latest work match the standard of their best-selling debut?


The first question is easily answered. The reason for the lengthy delay stems from the band’s decision after the 2008 Brit Awards to scrap all initial recordings of their second album with the intentions of tightening them up and perfecting them – surely the signs of three unshakably dedicated musicians who are in it more for love than money. It certainly suggests great things for the trio’s second outing.


Indeed, “This Ain’t A Love Song” certainly won’t disappoint Scouting’s die-hard and ever-patient fanbase; this new single would sit comfortably within their debut album, proof that the band hasn’t tampered with their original, much-loved sound. Although the track initially sounds very much like a Keane song, with its gentle piano melody, the band’s trademark quirkiness (or twee-ness, whichever you prefer) quickly shines through via frontman Roy Stride’s distinct cockney vocals that still tread that fine line between the likeable cheeky chappy stereotype, and that of a cocky James Blunt-esque public schoolboy (“And I’m a little bit lost without you/ And I’m a bloody big mess inside”). Nevertheless, Stride’s delivery brims with as much energetic charm as it does irritating smugness, and the inclusion of a backing strings symphony adds depth and emotion to the track, showing that the  band have matured and expanded their sound, without damaging their signature style.


Once again, and despite the title’s suggestion to the opposite, Scouting’s latest track is infused with tales of romance; of youthful love and painful rejection. Sickly sweet but nonetheless enjoyable, evoking an innocent charm that is clearly part of the band’s widespread appeal. And with its toe-tapping beat, soaring instrumentals and general air of quiet confidence and unrestrained joy, this track seems set to be a hit, heralding a very welcome return for Scouting For Girls, a return which is sure to be received with hysterical delight from the band’s adoring following. Indeed, while Scouting insist that “This Ain’t A Love Song”, for their fans it most certainly is.



Let’s Go To War – Wolves

posted 28 Mar 2010, 04:07 by Joe Richardson

[Last Gang Records]

Released: 22nd March 2010

by Fred Palmer

Wolves. Death. War. The Devil. Not exactly things you’d expect to find in a bouncy club track. But Canada’s Let’s Go To War prove that darkness can make it on the dancefloor, with their latest single Wolves (from the forthcoming album Karmageddon), a surprisingly morbid number that nevertheless seems capable of becoming a successful floor-filler.


Wolves, despite it’s unashamedly pop vocals, is actually rather poetic. Its talk of baying wolves, sinister characters and urban nightmares (The devil’s outside with his guns tryna start a war/And the preacher’s tryna trick me saying come inside and close the door”) act as metaphors for the pitch-black elements of broken society. A rap interlude gels surprisingly well within the pop/club vibes and the track’s conclusion, a Basement Jaxx-esque rhythm in which we hear amid a pulsing bass beat the words “In the belly of the beast” repeated over and over with increasing volume, is both catchy and unnerving.


All in all, Wolves comes across as the musical equivalent of a David Lynch film. Dark, compelling, creepy and warped; full of threatening characters and sordid underlying messages. And yet, set to a bouncy dance beat, it’s strangely catchy. Dismal but fun.



Various Artists- 'Bustin' Out. New Wave to New Beat: The Post Punk Era 1979-1981'

posted 24 Mar 2010, 01:55 by Joe Richardson

[Year Zero]
Release Date: 15th February 2010

by Adam Keay
A mate of mine was telling me the other day, how a mate of his was in a band that once supported Joy Division and yes, actually met Ian Curtis, shook his hand and had a chat. This wasn't particularly fascinating because these people were/are just blokes and the female equivalent of blokes, who were playing loads of gigs with loads of other bands, some with genuine connections to the scene, some remembered, some not.

The compilation 'Bustin' Out' rakes up quite a few of the fringe members of the post-punk era providing obscurity fun for the most part. Ping-pongin between no-wave, industrial, electro and post disco, 'Bustin' Out' gives itself the hard task of trying to feature the length and breadth of the 79-81 era, USA-UK, without playing into the hands of obvious choices.

Gary Numan's Tubeway Army track 'Replicas' is a glacial sheet of nonchalant alienation cutting down the components of pop to a confidently cinematic dragging pace. This was the beginnings of the 'machine phase' music for Numan, showing what a Station to Station Bowie alien might be listening to down the club.

Josef K's classic of Scottish post-punk Postcard Records stock, 'Sorry for Laughing' represents the other notable stand out track here. All propulsive, skitling guitars, gnarling away between a grimy melancholy and danceable funky uplift, 'Sorry for Laughing' feels fresh as eggs on toast served up in some girl's bedsit. The reference to Charles Atlas not being able 'to do the things we do' is representational of the in the chip shop before getting lost in the night, stammer glammer feel, of this track.

No-wave proper comes in the form of Lizzy Mercier Descloux's version of Arthur Brown's 'Fire' and Bush Tetra's 'Too Many Creeps'. Descloux's band Rosa Yemen were a fantastic quirky no-wave moment of loose 'as' two string skidlers with free scatter lyrics on top thus pre-empting the more recent Life Without Buildings rubber band skeletal pop. Whilst not quite hitting Rosa Yemen heights this version of 'Fire' pops along well enough. Bush Tetras featured on the Jean-Michel Basquiat biopic by Julian Schnabel just because that's the kind of band they are. Bobbing ultra hip slunk bass, staccato cut guitar with Driller Killer girl extras saying about what's happening with a 'I don't wanna' over the top. 

Unfortunately the comp's title track by Material, 'Bustin' Out' is a bit displaced here, sounding more Van Damme fight sequence gone all bargain basement Frankie Knuckles and jack-off rock guitars-odd. An interesting segway from core post-punk act Throbbing Gristle comes in the form of Chris and Cosey's 'Heart Beat'. Half of TG move into cleaner sounding synth territory with freeform Kraftwerk/ Vangelis futurism pulsing smoothly forward. From MOEV's 'Cracked Mirror' comes a sugary sample that after some initial wincing actually gets broken down and balanced by a heartfelt vocal-rare in these waters.

Grizzly, paranoid and twitchy from Front 242, Tuxedomoon and Killing Joke-oooh it's defo the night Ballard stopped at a Travelodge outside Wolverhampton for a bit too long, hauled up and sweating away in his room, having a bad do on a steak bake. Delay vocalled monk gloom and tribal drums come from Dead Can Dance, a cheeky, programmed three chorder from No More with a bloke just half doin the vocals about suicide over the top and you're almost there. Meanwhile 23 Skidoo are caught in a Paris no-go zone with an endless rolling end of the night bass following them, faint invisible sirens are all around and a jamming Ethiopian bazzar house band go past a few times in a rusty transit-'The Gospel Comes to New Guinea'.

Don't let the 28 weeks, London screaming cover fool you-the comps got some good stuff for the post punk nerd when you start scratchin' around! 


North Atlantic Oscillation – Grappling Hooks

posted 23 Mar 2010, 03:02 by Joe Richardson


Released: 22nd March 2010

by Fred Palmer

That a band should take its name from a complex climatic phenomenon suggests they must be quite a serious, astute bunch. North Atlantic Oscillation are certainly that and their debut album “Grappling Hooks” conveys this image entirely. NAO’s sound is brooding and melancholy, yet also contains a kind of joyous element which makes their music utterly entrancing. Not unlike Sigur Ros, NAO manage to find a perfect balance between their slow, wandering melodies, their haunting vocals and occasional bursts of feverish energy; an ability that illuminates them as masters in their field.


Highlights of the album include “Drawing Maps From Memory” (released as a single on March 8th) and “Cell Count”, both stunning, multi-layered tracks that take full advantage of the band’s passion for diversity; an eclectic array of instruments can be identified, with the melodies ranging from the soothing hum of electronic synths to the elegant symphonies of a skilfully-played piano. The album is well-titled; this music well and truly hooks the listener, the various instruments oscillating between one another with triumphant results.


All in all, North Atlantic Oscillation are summed up by the words you might use to describe their name; unusual, complex, unique, beguiling, audacious and engaging. Oh and one more...outstanding. Though far from being a band that will fill a dance floor, NAO stand as an example of intellectual music at its best. Hauntingly beautiful melodies that are just as suited to providing quiet ambiance as they are to being blasted out of speakers at full volume. Either way, these tracks demand to be heard.



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