Review

The LaFontaines – Common Problem

Sunday 15th October 2017

Track Listing:

1. Explosion
2. Too Late
3. Common Problem
4. Torture
5. Hang Fire
6. Goldmine
7. Armour
8. Atlas
9. What Do I Know
10. Total Control
11. Release The Hounds
12. Asleep

Having built a reputation as one of Scotland’s most exciting live bands, The LaFontaines are making a name for themselves and fast.  They’ve already sold out Glasgow’s Barrowlands, played London’s KOKO and the main stage at T in the Park; and they’ve also performed at The Great EscapeTRNSMT and Download Festival.  Their debut album “Class” charted in the UK Top 100 and Scottish Top 10, and went on to score Number 1 in the UK Indie Breakers chart back in 2015.  Now, 2 years later the band are back with their next brutally honest and outpouring offering in the shape of their next album “Common Problem.”

“Common Problem is a much darker record than our debut release,” says front-man Kerr Okan. “We’re not as young and naive as we were in our early twenties. We’ve been around the world as a band, seen a lot of things and discovered our one big Common Problem… There is a lot of angst, truth and reality held within this album.”

Straight off the bat I knew this album would hit me instantly, and I was excited with anticipation for what was about to be laid at my feet.  With a sound that fuses together rock music with elements of rap, hip-hop and pop, it’s great to finally hear a band that are ready to sit at the top table with the likes of Twenty One Pilots and Twin Atlantic.  In fact, with opening track “Explosion” I reckon these guys would be able to tear through a Pendulum set quicker than it would take for the mic to drop.

Lead single “Common Problem” opens with a sound familiar to Paramore “Hard Times” and this is exactly where the pop influences start to shine through, and as the first release from the album it shows off the unique capabilities of The LaFontaines.  Think along the lines of Macklemore who uses all the same rap to pop components, and of the same ilk these guys then carry that on through to the rest of the album in to an honest, raw insight of the realities the band are desperate for you to hear.

Remember when the Arctic Monkeys wrote a song telling us about the seedy streets of Sheffield? Well, “Armour” has the same edge to it but with a lot more raucous energy, and an anthemic chorus that is bound to make this a live favourite.  “Atlas” is a bittersweet track, with Kerr singing “let me tell you about the pain of being alone, you can tell me about the pain of being with someone.” whilst “Release The Hounds” reels back in to an indie-pop track, before “Asleep” pounces in and finishes off the album with its trippy bass line.

I realise that I have made quite a few comparisons to other artists, but that’s because to sum it up, this album is amazing. The LaFontaines aren’t like anything that I have heard in a long time, and trying to pin point who I can relate these guys to is quite difficult. The reason for that is simply because they’re not trying to fit in to any mould or fill another bands shoes, they’re authentic and bring an originality to the rock genre.

Connect with The LaFontaines via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Rosedale – Again

Thursday 14th September 2017

Track Listing:

1. What We Started
2. Snapped In Two
3. This Dissonance
4. Space Mountain
5. Do It All Again

Rosedale started out back in 2004, when Mike Liorti was determined to chase his dream of being in a band; so he convinced his friends to get instruments so they could play together.  The name of the band was born from Rosedale Avenue, the street the band would walk down to the music store to practice the songs they had written on equipment they couldn’t quite afford.  Over the years, Rosedale went through 7 line-up changes, with band members deciding to move on; but Mike Liorti has continued the project as a solo career.  Mike is quite simply a self-confessed workaholic, but an extremely admirable one who continues to chase his dream, because it’s something he still believes in so strongly.

As a band they released 2 EPs together, with Mike continuing to release Rosedale’s debut album in 2012 by himself.  He then set out on a huge tour, starting with the aspirational Vans Warped Tour, before carrying on playing many states across the US and Canada.  Music and travelling are what Mike enjoys most, with him providing the ultimate DIY message “Commit, sacrifice, create, and above all… sustain. You really can do anything if you truly love it and nobody can represent you better than yourself. That really speaks to me.”

So you might be wondering how one person can now do the work of a full pop-rock band.  Well, Mike explains in the promotional video below how he performs whilst playing guitar and keys at the same time, but projects a video of him recording himself playing all the other instruments.  If that wasn’t intricate enough, he also programmes all the lights to be in sync with the show.  If you’re already sold on seeing Rosedale live before I’ve even got in to the review, then check out the promo video below which also talks about Mike’s upcoming North American tour.  I do enjoy writing about artists from the other side of the pond, there really are some great finds out there, but it’s even harder when you can’t get to a show!

Having drive and ambition is a good start to a successful career, but how does the music compare?  Well,  listening to “Again” and being instantly reminded of the likes of New Found GloryJimmy Eat World, and Angels & Airwaves, this release already sits nicely within my collection.  There’s certainly a gap in the market for a new act to push through, especially since the likes of pop-rock veterans New Found Glory are heading out on their 20th anniversary tour, and also Yellowcard recently decided to call it a day.

“What We Started” is a passionate opening track and I can’t help thinking that it plays homage to the band, since Mike explained in the video that the title of the EP comes from needing to continue to do things in life to succeed, and repetition is key to sustain.  That’s exactly what Mike is doing here, carrying on with the vision he had all those years ago.  “Snapped In Two” has a vigorous opening and is a melodic track, which provides heavier hooks and relatable lyrics.  The production of the EP as a whole is great, but this tracks stands out even more; with an intro that pounces straight in with beating drums that continue throughout, and the progressiveness of the guitar leading us along.  “This Dissonance” is the closest you’ll get to a slowed down pop-punk ballad, and provides Mike the opportunity to showcase his vocal talents.  In fact, the start of this track reminds me of Owl City as it has a beautiful violin to start followed by a light touch of the guitar, reminiscent of the soft sounds heard in “Fireflies.”

Carrying on, I’m not entirely sure whether the next track “Space Mountain” has anything to do with the rollercoaster, but it has taken me a few listens to get my head around it.  It’s a whirlwind of a song and I found it hard to keep up with the complicated lyrics working alongside the hectic track.  However, finishing off the EP is the very enjoyable “Do It All Again” which is an acoustic track thats starts off and continues with just Mike and his ukulele.  A very pleasing way to finish off an EP which continues to showcase Rosedale and what one man and his vision can accomplish.

Connect with Rosedale via Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Reverend & The Makers – The Death Of A King

Wednesday 30th August 2017

Track Listing:

1. Miss Haversham
2. Auld Reekie Blues
3. Bang Seray
4. Boomerang
5. Too Tough To Die
6. Carlene
7. Monkey See
8. Black Cat
9. Who Am I
10. Time Machine
11. Juliet Knows
12. Black Flowers

Reverend & The Makers are a band that instantly take me back to my days as a student.  If I was to honestly sum up University life, it wouldn’t be anything predictable like too much drinking and partying; in fact it would quite simply be indie music.  Placing a soundtrack to those days you would find me listening to the likes of Hard-Fi, The Pigeon Detectives, Razorlight, Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes to name a few.  Here I find myself all these years later and Reverend & The Makers are due to release their sixth studio album on the 22nd September, which is a great feat for any band, especially after frontman John McClure announced back in 2008 that he was done with the industry and quitting music.

Previous studio album “Mirrors” saw the band decamping to Jamaica, so this time the band decided to continue with their travelling theme and recorded their latest release “The Death Of A King” whilst in Thailand.  The video to their lead single “Too Tough To Die” is an extract from a film that was shot whilst out in Thailand, and follows the band as they arrive in a remote fishing village to record and film, however things take an unexpected twist when on the day of arrival the controversial king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, dies.

John says that: “We loved the recording abroad thing after the last album. Gives the albums a flavour of their own and so we thought we’d give Thailand a try, take the family and all that. I’ve been there before and Pete and Carl raved about Bang Saray so we took all the gang out there. Loads of us. It had finally got back to that big collective I’d always wanted to create. Having long since given up the notion of being number One, we resolved to just make tunes we liked. Ryan’s mrs played bass for a tune, the wives and kids sang backing vocals. Being so far away from home and my family (Laura couldn’t come as she was pregnant) meant I was starting to go a bit mental by the end. I kinda feel like some of that comes thru in the tunes a bit too. I’m kind of off trying to recreate ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’. I’m 35, I have a new set of concerns. I see the world in a different way now so I’m trying to be true to who I am today.”

Listening to opening track “Miss Haversham” I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t sound anything like the band that I remember from back in the days, when I would constantly listen to “Open Your Window” and “He Said He Loved Me” back-to-back on repeat.  However, John is a man of vision and is set on staying true to himself by creating music that he likes; plus, jumping back in to a band that I haven’t listened to since their early material, it was quite naive of me not to think about how much a band would have developed their sound over this period of time.

Sticking with it, I take a shine to “Auld Reekie Blues” where vocals are shared with fellow band member Ed Cosens, which has a great soulful vibe to it and uplifting hooks.  Opening to the sound of bongos and followed by a drawing of the violin “Bang Seray” is an enlightening track that has clearly been inspired by the culture experienced whilst in Thailand, and is a subtle respite from the intricate arrangement the rest of the album goes through.  “Too Tough To Die” is still the one I enjoy the most, and is the stand-out track; which probably has something to do with the heavy bass guitar work that I find myself most comfortable with, and is reminiscent of early Reverend & The Makers.

It doesn’t take much time to work through the album as 10 of the tracks are less than 3-minutes in duration, with “Carlene” being a minute long piano ballad.  With each track taking a different turn from the next and transitioning between arrangements, there are no two tracks that sound the same. “Monkey See, Monkey Do” has Liam Gallagher written all over it, where as “Black Cat” sounds as though it’s come straight out of a musical with its brass band in tow.  Final track “Black Flowers” has the most beautiful opening, and for a moment I’m reminded of elements from “Daydreamin” by Lupe Fiasco, until Laura McClure comes in with her evocative vocals; it’s a 9-minute track of complete variation.

With all 5 previous album releases entering the UK Top 20 Albums chart, I have no doubt that the eclectic “Death Of A King” will reach successful heights of its own, whilst renewing the original spirit of the band, and continuing to gain momentum with each single released.

Connect with Reverend & The Makers via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Awake At Last – Life/Death/Rebirth

Thursday 3rd August 2017

Track Listing:

1. Purgatorium
2. Analysis Paralysis
3. Dark Waltz
4. White Rabbit
5. Constellations
6. Reflections

Awake At Last are a band that I always get excited about.  They first contacted me in 2015 following the release of their King of the World EP and I really enjoyed their sound.  It’s always great to hear about bands and artists from the other side of the pond so I had to interview Awake At Last to find out more.  Since our initial chat things have been moving forward really well for the band; they contacted me again in 2016 to let me know they’d just wrapped up their next EP following a successful Indigogo campaign, and here we are now less than a year later and we can get our ears around their latest offering Life/Death/Rebirth.

Initially when I first listened to the album it reminded me straight away why I really enjoy this band.  So much energy has gone in to the release and there’s a clear progression from their previous material which has been well built upon.  I remember when Never Be A Memory was released, their first single in a couple of years since the King of the World EP and at the time it was apparent how much Awake At Last were evolving.

Speaking with guitarist Imran Xhelili last year ahead of the release he explained that “We’ve definitely pushed ourselves more musically – the guitars are definitely doing a lot more as are the drums, bass and vocal melodies. There’s a lot more energy on the new EP and we’re all confident in the change of direction the progression of our sound, since we would never want to release the same CD twice. We all came together a lot more on the song writing as a full band and were able to blend our influences into this new direction of Awake At Last.”

Opening track Purgatorium provides a great opportunity for lead singer Vincent Torres to showcase the range and quality of his well-established vocals.  The chilling opening is theatrical, with a gradual build-up and a soft sound inviting you in, and then when the progressiveness kicks in all hell breaks loose and you’re thrown straight in to a journey of an EP that tells a story of redemption.  Analysis Paralysis has a dark intro with mighty guitar work and a tasty riff, and opens the way for realisation that you’re in for a much heavier release, and lyrically it’s very poignant too.

It can be really difficult trying to stand out in such a competitive industry, but to me Awake At Last have always gone beyond their ambitions to make the band work, and it’s clear they’re not scared to push in to a genre that others have yet to dare tread.  Dark Waltz and White Rabbit are forcefully vigorous tracks and fill the release with a display that shows they’re not scared to move out of their comfort zone.  I especially enjoy the expression in the lyrics for White Rabbit, with Vincent declaring that “I’m not heartless I just use my heart less” it’s commanding, powerful and relatable.

Constellations is a howling track, and possibly one of my favourites on the EP.  The way in which the drums and guitars work together creates an absolute storm, and how they work the different paces the track goes through is intricate.  I was once told by a friend that drummers don’t get enough attention in bands and this has always stuck with me, so I have to make sure I point out how the drumming really stands out and accelerates in this track.  Keeping up the pace, Reflections brings the grunge and is a lot edgier, but after professing that “we care to much or we don’t care enough, I’m sick of the concept of falling in love” it takes us on a steadier step towards the end of the EP.

Life/Death/Rebirth is a solid release that’s tightly polished and one that Awake At Last should be proud of.  They continue to go from strength to strength and it would be great to see a full album next, or even have these guys signed.  They work hard, tour hard, and do everything they can to make the band work and get their name out there; it’s time these guys were snapped up to a label!  So if you’re in the neighbourhood looking for something new to grace your speakers, give Awake At Last a spin, you won’t be dissapointed.

Connect with Awake At Last via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Patent Pending – Other People’s Greatest Hits

Friday 23rd June 2017

Track Listing:

1. Wasted/Wake Me Up
2. Spice Up Your Life
3. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
4. Never Gonna Give You Up
5. Shout Out To My Ex
6. Livin’ La Vida Loca
7. All Time Low
8. Mr Brightside
9. Shape Of You
10. See You Again

Patent Pending are a rock band hailing from New York, and are here with their 6th studio album ‘Other People’s Greatest Hits’.  Known for performing covers during live shows the band decided they wanted to release an album of hits for their fans to enjoy.

Talking about the release the band explained that “each song that we chose for this album really helps represent the many different sides of Patent Pending. We’ve always been a band that draws influence from all over the musical spectrum and this project really helped us encapsulate pieces from all of the different genres we love in a half hour of pop-punk chaos! As music can make you feel so many different things and form connections with many songs for various different reasons, the hardest part of the whole thing was deciding which songs to do and choose only 10. We started with a list of 173 potential songs and spent a full week picking away at them, so safe to say this was truly a labor of love…”.”

Now, I have to admit that I tend to tread lightly when bands and artists produce cover songs.  You never really know what you’re going to get, and sometimes it doesn’t feel as though much justice has been done to the original at all.  However, that’s not to say I completely rule them out, in fact far from it.  Some of my favourites in recent years include Black Stone Cherry’s cover of Adele ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and Lonely The Brave did a beautiful version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’; also Amy Winehouse did a fantastic take on the Zutons ‘Valerie’.

When I was introduced to Patent Pending and their latest release ‘Other People’s Greatest Hits’ I was a bit unsure what to expect at first, but I can hands down say right from the start that it is an extremely entertaining album.  It does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a collection of other people’s greatests hits that have been given a new lease of life.  With a really catchy collection of songs, Pop Punk is probably the most fun genre out there, and that’s exactly what this album is – lots of high energy and fun!

During their Spring Break Tour the band have been unveiling tracks from the album each night.  One of my favourites has to be their mash-up of ‘Wasted/Wake Me Up’ by Tiesto/Avicii, and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.  The newly released video for the track is very amusing and includes paint, and lots of it.  There’s a nice assortment of tracks from different eras, although I can’t help thinking that of all the music the 80’s gave to us, did we have to get “rick-rolled” by the infamous ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. I do really enjoy the intro to this one though, it sounds like the start of an 80’s sitcom.

If I had to select a track that I was most worried about hearing it would be the timeless classic Mr Brightside by The Killers.  The original track is so euphoric it’s difficult to imagine it in any other way.  Got to hand it to the band though, the keys at the beginning gave it the excitement that’s always anticipated with the song and it hasn’t let the original down at all.

Covering a track that’s only recently charted is always a tough call too, but Patent Pending aren’t out to trump anyone they’re just out for the good times.  Their take on ‘Shape Of You’ by Ed Sheeran is quite funky and has been given the upbeat rock treatment with a sprinkling of beatings on the triangle.  However,  ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the original, there’s just a lot more guitar work which makes it sit well with the rest of the album.

Vocalist, Joe Ragosta comments that “the first time I heard this song I knew immediately that it needed to be covered by a rock band. The chorus is so catchy. It honestly reminds me of classic Warped Tour singalong songs. We wanted to beef it up with heavier guitars and push it further out from the pop genre. People we’ve shown it to so far are really excited that they don’t have to feel guilty about loving this tune anymore!””

So there you have it, a party starting album that’s sure to get you motivated and put you in a feel good mood. I have to say that it’s very hard for me to sit here and critique an album full of highly recognised tracks because you’ll already know what to expect, and what’s even better is you’ll already know all the lyrics.

So just buy the freaking album.  You’ll thank me for it.

Connect with Patent Pending via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Little Steven – Soulfire

Sunday 14th May 2017

Track Listing:

1. Soulfire
2. I’m Coming Back
3. Blues Is My Business
4. I Saw The Light
5. Some Things Just Don’t Change
6. Love On The Wrong Side of Town
7. The City Weeps Tonight
8. Down and Out In New York City
9. Standing In The Line of Fire
10. Saint Valentines Day
11. I Don’t Want To Go Home
12. Ride The Night Away

In my house we always pen ‘Classic Rock Sundays’ in to our weekly routine where we listen to nothing but classic rock for the whole day.  It’s the one day of the week we can always guarantee to be in the house and having the opportunity to listen to music from dawn ’til dusk.  I have always been a big rock music enthusiast, but when I met my other half quickly realised how lacking my knowledge was of classic rock.  Sure I knew my AC/DC from my Def Leppard to my Deep Purple, but there were still many gaps to fill.  So with every Sunday that passes I’m certain to add something new to my collection.

So when I was given the new release from Little Steven to review I was very excited.  I started playing it and from the other side of the room I hear a voice “that sounds like Bruce Springsteen”.  And sure enough here I am being educated about another extremely important artist, with such a huge repertoire and back catalogue.  Whilst he’s not busy touring with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Little Steven is here with his first solo release in almost 2 decades, ‘Soulfire’ which is due for release on the 19th May, and the album features a personal collection of tracks that have been revisted from the length of his career.

“I’ve always been very thematic with my work, very conceptual. I need a big picture, I can’t just do a collection of songs, that doesn’t work for me. In this case the concept became me. Who am I? I’m kind of my own genre at this point. So I tried to pick material that when you add it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”

Back in February Little Steven announced via social media that a new album was coming, and sure enough he released his first track from the album ‘Saint Valentines Day’ which was originally written for Nancy Sinatra.  Unfortunately the session never came off and the track became a hit for The Cocktail Slippers, and now we’re presented with his own take on the track where a horn line has been added to give it more of a soul feel.  This was a huge hit for The Cocktail Slippers, but I have to say I’m really enjoying this version just that little bit more.

If you’re a fan of the work that Steven Van Zandt has done with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes then you’re in for a treat as there are a handful of tracks that you should recognise. Heading back to 1977 with LP ‘This Time It’s For Real’ he has taken the successful Motown track ‘Some Things Just Don’t Change’ which he wrote alongside David Ruffin with The Temptations in mind, and taken a turn from the deep soulfulness of the original and given it a more rock and roll vibe. ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town’ was co-written with Bruce Springsteen, and being such a definative song was more of a challenge to add his own personal spin.  He did after all write, arrange and produce the original version (I do love that piano intro) but he’s been able to find opportunities to change it up slightly.

Alongside the recognisable tracks there are also unheard songs such as ‘I Saw The Light’ which was half written for Richie Sambora & Orianthi, but the next time they met Richie had already written a further 40 songs so this one went unfinished.  That was until now when Steven decided to finish the song for himself.  Also, ‘The City Weeps Tonight’ was going to be the first song on his first solo album but has remained three-quarters finished all these years until now.

Speaking about his solo career, Steven explains “I felt a bit guilty about having walked away from Little Steven the artist. I left that part of myself behind and I shouldn’t have done that. I let the material down by not continuing to perform it, I betrayed the work and I want to fix that. I didn’t give up on the material – there was a lot of other factors – but I do have a sense of wanting some redemption for it.”

Music discovery for me isn’t just about finding emerging artists, but being introduced to music that has been around for a very long time and becoming aquainted with it.  So whilst Little Steven is currently on his own musical journey I am pleased to have found him along the way, because not only do I now have something to introduce my husband to on ‘Classic Rock Sundays’ but ‘Soulfire’ has provided me with a plethora of music from a key era, which includes not only Little Steven himself but the raft of artists he has also worked with.

Connect with Little Steven via his Website, Facebook and Twitter.

True Moon – Debut Album

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Track Listing:

1. Voodoo
2. Our Own Darkness
3. True Moon
4. Sugar
5. Just Like Smoke
6. Guns
7. Run Run Run
8. In the Dead of the Night
9. Things I Use To Tell You
10. Honey
11. Guns RMX

It would be cliché to say that Friday is the best day of the week, bringing that great feeling of knowing that you’re only hours away from the weekend. But for me it’s all about the new music releases, especially those that steer away from the wave of the mainstream. Sitting down and following my usual morning routine of tuning myself in to something to get me through the working day, I decided today I wanted to discover something new. Then I remembered about the album promo that I received for Swedish dark-pop rockers True Moon.

Admittedly this one had been sitting in my mailbox for a while, but I was far from ignoring it. Every so often I would stream a handful of the tracks and then come away from it, because there is something about it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Was I suffering with writers block, or maybe I had been given something a little out of my comfort zone? With the release date of the 28th April looming I decided to really give this one its dues, because once I really had time to take in the lyrical content and process exactly what this album is showcasing, it was a light bulb moment.

Inspiration for the album came from the experimental and challenging post-punk scene of the 70’s and 80’s, and it’s quick to draw on artists such as Joy Division, Siouxsie, Cure, and Sisters of Mercy. True Moon are fronted by Karolina Engdahl, who completed all her vocals for the recording in just 90 minutes, and along with the slightly unrefined sound the album presents a debut release that isn’t sugar coated. The powerful expressions of the emotions that are presented really draw in to the honesty of reaching in to those darker depths and pulling back out a pure untainted vision of what’s real.

Speaking about the album, guitarist Tommy Tilt explains, “We wanted an old school raw, unpolished feel to the production. When you listen to the Joy Division records, Martin Hannet’s production is totally integral to how the songs come across: if you hear a Joy Division song on the radio or in a club it only takes one second to recognise who it is because that studio sound is so distinctive. We wanted that kind of immediacy and impact.”

Track ‘Our Own Darkness’ is a perfect example of this, sounding like a rough cut but quickly forming in to something quite haunting yet rousing. This is followed through in self-titled track ‘True Moon’ but with a much deeper electronic vibe and poignant lyrics telling a tale of heartbreak. ‘Sugar’ is the first release from the album, and in my opinion although a good track I have found it to be a bit repetitive after a few spins. However, for anyone just discovering the duo this is a comfortable place to start.

Personal favourites include opening track ‘Voodoo’ which lures you in to the album perfectly and is extremely catchy with its arousing bass and raw but powerful vocals from Karolina; alongside ‘Guns’ with its punchy drumming intro and feral tones that give it a dystopian feel – my mind spins just listening to it.

Wondering what it was that kept drawing me back to the album, I realised that I was completely reeled in by the brutal sound and honesty that has been pushed through every track. With something that was familiar but from an era that I’d not discovered for a long time, being reminded of artists such as Joy Division, Blondie, and more recently the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Pretty Reckless it became addictive and that’s what kept pulling me in.

Connect with True Moon via Facebook.