Review

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.

Halflives – Empty Rooms

Tuesday 21st March 2017

Track Listing:

1. Lone Wolf
2. Mayday
3. Burn
4. Echo
5. The Sickness
6. Half Alive
7. Empty Room
8. Collide


The first time I heard Halflives was during the release of their sterling single ‘Mayday’.  They were also being championed by another band that I was introduced to at the same time, Courage My Love who they will be heading out on tour with for a handful of dates in May and June.  It pleases me greatly that six months later the band have announced the release of their debut album ‘Empty Rooms’.  This is a band that I instantly connected with from the start and I was quickly drawn in by their already accomplished sound and Linda’s stirring vocals.

It has taken the band 18 months to complete the album, along with a substantial amount of crowdfunding.  They managed to reach double the amount they had set out to fund in only a month, and the result is a punchy 8-track release that is very tightly polished.

Linda explains the decision behind which tracks made the final cut, saying: “we decided to keep just 8 of the very best tracks in this album to let people feel our real essence and we can’t wait to present it to you all.”

Fans have recently been treated another release from Halflives which comes in the form of their second single ‘Burn’ and for anyone wondering what can be expected from the album, this completely sets the tone.  Tracks such as ‘Echo’ and ‘The Sickness’ are packed with feelings, and you really feel the emotion being expressed through the lyrics.  Another stand out track is ‘Empty Room’ which I would pin as being one of my favourite tracks, because the sound brings an elation within a song that shouts out about a niggling feeling deep down inside.

“’Empty Rooms’ is the result of a long period of work and introspection. I was finding myself in a really dark place when writing these songs and I used the feelings I was carrying with me to give birth to something new, something deeper from everything that was written before. The inspiration came from different pieces of my life, including things I’ve seen on tour, things I’ve felt even by just staring outside of the ferry approaching to the white cliffs of Dover under the rain. Each song is a different empty room where I’ve let my feelings flow, you can visit them all and find a piece of us in each of them, a story, in each of them.”

With emotive lyrics and a project of self-expression, this release is something to be proud of and really showcases what Halflives are about.  It’s clear they have the capabilities to push forward and make something of the band, and I hope this is the start of something much bigger to come.

Due for release on the 14th April, pre-orders are available here.

UK Tour Dates:

31st May – Southampton, Talking Heads
1st June – Bristol, The Exchange
2nd June – Bridgewater, Cobblestones
3rd June – London, Camden Rocks Festival
4th June – Manchester, Rebellion

Connect with Halflives via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Vukovi – Debut Album

Monday 20th February 2017

Track Listing:

1. La Di Da
2. And He Lost His Mind
3. Weirdo
4. Target Practice
5. Prey
6. Bouncy Castle
7. Wander
8. I’m Wired
9. Animal
10. Boy George
11. He Wants Me Not
12. Colour Me In

vukovi_album_web_jpeg_no_filter03

I was introduced to Vukovi back in May last year following the release of their single ‘Animal’ and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of their debut album ever since.  From the moment I saw the video for the single I was completely captured by the sheer energy this band radiates.  You’re immediately pulled right in and taken on a journey that’s a whilwhind of chaos and then left standing wide eyed and wanting more.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Go check out the video below for lead single ‘La Di Da’ that’s most recently been released.  Oh, and keep an eye out for Honey, a 6ft Boa Contrictor who also makes a slithering appearance.  This should give you an idea of just how quirky Vukovi are, with their bold lyrics and dizzying perspectives that hypnotise your subconscious, Vukovi are simply mesmerising.

Partly inspired by the Joker and Harley Quinn relationship Janine was obsessed with as a comic book loving teen, “The song portrays an abusive relationship unbeknown to the victim. There are a lot of emotions throughout the song. There’s vulnerability, and there’s resistance. It took time to come together, and it had to live on the back burner for a while. But one night I gave in to the niggling that kept demanding I go back to it. I remember the moment it came together; me and Hamish (Reilly, guitars) in my flat drinking pretentious cocktails, laptop, tiny amp, guitar…”

Vukovi have been likened to Florence Welch, Nothing But Thieves, and Enter Shikari, which I can agree with but for me I’m very much reminded of fellow Scottish rockers Garbage.  With slightly dark and experimental elements, mixed in with bold and lucid lyrics, anthemic hooks, trippy camera work and an electric performance, to me it just screams Shirley Manson.

Those who are aquainted with the band should already have a good idea of how this album will sound, as tracks ‘Bouncy Castle’ and ‘Boy George’ were actually released back in 2015, along with ‘Animal’ and ‘La Di Da’ in 2016, so I can imagine there are many fans chomping at the bit wanting to get their mits on this release.  But for those who are looking for some reassurance, what can I say?  It’s an absolute stormer and you will not be dissapointed.

As I work my way through the album it’s clear there are influences from personal experiences.  With tracks such as ‘Weirdo’ telling a relateable story of not wanting to be part of the in-crowd and refusing to be anything but yourself, this is a song many will connect with.  The dark and haunting track ‘Prey’ was written by Janine about a previous relationship, explaining that “it’s about a time in my life where I thought I’d met my knight in shining armor – but he fucked me up even more.”

Personal favourites include ‘And He Lost His Mind’ because it has that tantalising and excentric sound that draws me to Vukovi, along with ‘Target Practice’ with its thrilling intro and serious hooks pulsating through each chorus.  This album is serious and means business.  You won’t find no debut album playing it safe here, this is straight up dedicated and assertive, and you need to listen up!

Due for release on the 10th March, pre-orders are now available here.

Tour Dates:

10th March – Glasgow, King Tut’s
11th March – Leeds, Key Club
13th March – Manchester, Sound Control
14th March – Bristol, The Louisiana
16th March – London, Boston Music Room
18th March – Nottingham, Rock City Basement
19th March – Aberdeen, Tunnels

Connect with Vukovi via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.