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Free Single Download: I’m Ready by Patti Yang

Ten years ago you could throw a rock in any direction and hit an artist who was trying to bring Eighties music back. In 2015 the same can’t be said for the Nineties, which is one of the reasons I’m Ready, the new single from Patti Yang, is so compelling. This song has so many different things going for it: a reminder of how timeless Trip-hop sounds- seriously, with just a few little tweaks Yang has infiltrated the moody dance landscape with beats that sound like they should infiltrate the charts as well.

There is an inherent spirituality in I’m Ready: Patti Yang coolly croons about the almost religious experience of finding love and joining all the others that found it before her: “I’m ready for love/I’m ready for the dream come true/like all of you.” The synths and percussion create, for me at least, a vivid mental picture of a quest across the desert. She’s at the end, discovered her lover, and even though the journey was trying she has enough energy to say how she feels and how the journey has affected her. I’m Ready is an ode to the emotional hardship of accepting that you want love, and Patti Yang sells it with grace. Get your free download of I’m Ready here.


Album Review: Louise Aubrie- Late 44

When you hear the phrase pop-punk, you’re likely to think of bands like Blink 182, Green Day. American bands who know their way around a melody combined with a record collection that were designed to antagonise their parents. That isn’t pop-punk to me, though. To me, pop-punk is crafting melodic songs with the punk sensibility that lets you break out of your comfort zone into any genre of music that makes the song soar. This is exactly what London born singer songwriter Louise Aubrie has achieved on her third album Late 44.

All the songs were written by Aubrie and recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studio, and it’s clear that some of the legend of the place has rubbed off on Aubrie, who presents a plethora of different sounds and attitudes all wrapped up in a poppy bow.

The album opener, appropriately titled Masterstroke, begins with a riff that conjures the dirty streets of London in the late 70s, a deft mix of Magazine sounds and Susie Sioux’s vocal melodies Aubrie clearly knows her post-punk. Tearjerker a musically lighter song but lyrically tells a tale of dashed hopes: “make it with nothing/but her heart on her sleeve”. It shows off her poppier side with a killer hook.

Next is the album highlight Perfect Battle Cry. Starting off with a chiming country riff punctuating acoustic strumming this is the first glimpse of Aubrie’s comfort melding different genres together. The vocals are pure Elastica circa 1995 as Aubrie spins a tale of the exaggerated games of romantic coupling: “He tried to win her over with a perfect battle cry/She knew he took her over with a perfect battle cry”, it really is the law of the jungle. After the downbeat but sweet Winter Dolour (stands to reason, I can’t think of a happy song with winter in the title outside of Christmas songs), comes the fast paced rockabillity of Too Late a veritable race against time as Aubrie spits: “tick tock you love me it’s too late”. Next to Nothing highlights Late 44, and Aubrie’s, greatest strength, that her chorus’ and hooks are deceptively simple: “I know next to nothing”, but without warning they’ve already burrowed into your brain ready to be hummed later when you’re in boring company. Next is Kiss of Life: the kind of song that seems like it would be right at home on the soundtrack of David Lynch’s demented road movie Wild at Heart. The back half of the album sees Aubrie jumping from feeling to feeling: youthful nostalgia on the slight but affecting Candlelight, barbed aggression on One False Move, and weariness on album closer Please Don’t Touch, probably the most melodic way of telling a guy to back off and cool down-the choppy guitars in the chorus help too.

Late 44 presents Louise Aubrie as a hard as nails performer but also a dreamer, her songs are about the standard pop fare of love, sex, and loss, but it’s the resilience as well as the vulnerability of her protagonists, whether they be her or not, that make the album universally relatable without seeming old hat.

Single of the Week: Richman’s Arcade by The Splashing Pearls

Yup, you might recognise the name at the top of this post and that’s because it’s not the first time we’ve reviewed a release from The Splashing Pearls. In fact, they’ve earned both of our recent Single of the Week spots, so I don’t really know why you’d need any more convincing about how great they are.

Their newest single, Richman’s Arcade, adds a little bit more to the speculation around their next album, Tabloid Tales, out April 28th. Voodoo Love was a hectic, brilliant, all-over-the-place jam, and, while that’s pretty enticing in and of itself, Richman’s Arcade offers a very different view of the upcoming release. It firmly keeps it’s jagged teeth into the steel drums and pluckety guitars of it’s predecessor, but it’s got a much more nostalgic, almost mournful feel to it- emotionally striking and packed with sublime vocal harmonies, it weaves a striking image. Here’s the other side of The Splashing Pearls coin- and I don’t mind which side it lands on.

Single of the Week: Voodoo Love by The Splashing Pearls

You know, too much angst in a lady’s life can bring her down, so I’m never sorry to see something with a bit of pep in it’s step rove it’s way on to my radar. This week, my injection of joy is coming courtesy of The Splashing Pearls, a three piece from Delaware, and their latest single Voodoo Love.

Firstly, let me just stress that this is a single from their next album, Tabloid Tales, which I’ve found my way to an advance copy of, and it’s out in April, and you should definitely go listen to it when it is. With that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about this track and why it’s such a good example of what The Splashing Pearls do best.

Firstly, there’s that thumping afro-carribean kick courtesy of an enthusiastic steel drum, an upright bass, and a guitar- and very little else. There’s a proper, raw edginess to Voodoo Love, a rollicking kick up the backside that dances circles around you then leaves you in the dust. Lyrically, it’s playful and a little bit dark (two things that are hard top pull off without sounding just kind of pretentious), and all it’s little intricacies are pulled to the forefront with some awesome vocal work courtesy of Larkin Scobell. It’s a vividly realized, brightly-coloured parade float smacking of booze, the smell of cigarettes in the summer, and dancing till your legs give out. If that doesn’t satisfy you, I don’t know what will.

Introducing: Heather Powell

Running this blog, I get a lot of indie music, a lot of pop, a lot of guitar-driven rock. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy that kind of music; far from it, it’s what I spend most of my spare time listening to. But that’s not to say that getting something a little bit different in my inbox will ever go amiss. So when I got wind of a new artist in the form of Heather Powell, a theatre degree graduate with seven years in the army behind her, something piqued my interest.

I’ve been listening to her debut album, A Haze of Grays and Blue, most of today, and I’ve got to admit there’s something hear that’s a little bit addictive. I love that the album sidesteps neutering down the music into nothing but ambience, which is common with so many vocalists, and allows a distinct sense of style and a focus on genre to burn through. Sure, this are tracks that definitely bring out the best of her alternately smoky, occasionally angelic, but constantly memorable voice, but the music is powerful too. While the power ballad is sensibly avoided in favour of a focus on Powell’s enchanting vocal dexterity, there is plenty of power here. There are hints of swing, dashes of blues, maybe even a few nods to the showtunes that her theatre degree might well have introduced her to, tinged with a sepia-toned romance that pulls the album together. Rich, decadent and totally absorbing, A Haze of Grays and Blue is much more defined than that title might lead you to believe.

Single of the Week: He Was a Man by Kings of the Brushwood Thicket

As soon as I spotted the words “Bowie-esque” in the promo email for this track, I knew I was going to be covering it. Fresh from the pen of Bruce Erik Brauer, whose previous projects include a stint with Dog Society, He Was a Man suddenly had quite a lot to live up to- and I’m pleased to say that it did.

I really appreciate (and have recently been getting into more) artists who can pull off the really stripped-back sound. Even more impressive are the musicians who can find nuance in that sound, as so many times in just winds up sounding like someone looking for a spare street corner and a hat to catch change in. But Brauer’s work here sounds like it was written for the studio, a clean, crisp, clear, and curiously melancholy number that does indeed echo some of Bowie’s less chunky tracks, as well as pulling to mind a few more recent artists like The Libertines (and, coming from me, that’s a damn big compliment). You can catch more of Kings of the Brushwood Thicket on their upcoming album, The Lies You Leave Behind, due out May 5th.

Album Preview: On The Horizon by TJ Doyle

Some artists exist with pomp and grandeur, requiring a steady stream of fans to carry them to notoriety and beyond. And some artists exist just because they couldn’t imagine their worlds without music, because chronicling the world around them through song just makes sense. TJ Doyle is one of the latter kind.

Living and working on the edge of the Los Angeles National Forest, he’s secluded in a way that allows him to remove the typical human suffering from his music and turn it into something more universal. His lyrics and his sound hark back to the fifties and sixties, when tunes were often bigger than just individual experience and encompassing a broader, more relatable human experience. And that sort of thing is of great interest to me, because I spend so much of my time firmly entrenched in sad little pop songs and not enough time listening to music that steps back and takes on incomparably big ideas. And, with Doyle’s second album On The Horizon out on 8th April next month, what better time to indulge my whimsy for the serious?

On The Horizon is the sort f album that requires you to listen with headphones. Layers of guitar swim into each other, begging to be picked apart just to see how the songs fit together. The lyrics are straightforward, instantly relatable, sprung from years of genuine experience. A lot is owed to Doyle’s own voice, too, a talented and confident tenor that cuts through the layer upon layer in every song to provide something to pull the whole album together. It’s an interesting piece when you take it as a whole, because the songs flow into each other with such ease, one guitar solo leading in to the front half of another ballad, lending the album a crisp, polished feel that doubtless comes down (at least in part) to Doyle’s work with Grammy-award winning sound engineer Tom Weir. Come April 8th, I’ll expect all of you to be stopping by soundcloud to check this one out.

Album Review: American Beauty/American Psycho by Fall Out Boy

As the oldest of old-school FOB fans, I’m always a little bit pumped about a new Fall Out Boy release. I’ll admit that I wasn’t that taken with Save Rock and Roll, their pointedly audacious, dubstep-happy comeback album from a few years back. American Beauty/American Psycho promised to step back a bit further into their fifth album, Folie a Deux territory, and I was excited about it (so excited that I forgot that it had come out for a whole week, because some part of me is determined that my scene kid days are behind me).

And, look: I like this. I’ve needed a good, dirty injection of pop-electronic-rock since MCR split up, and Fall Out Boy seemed to have sprouted tentacles, synthesizers and self-awareness since I listened to them last. I mean, take the title track: second on the album, I was blown away by just how unbelievably…well, good this track was. Patrick Stump was always the main attraction of this band to anyone who didn’t think Pete Wentz was the fittest thing in a floppy fringe, and this album is his masterwork, diving headfirst into utter, irredeemable ridiculousness with an engaging enthusiasm and throatier, spikier delivery that suits the jaded pop-rock of AB/AP so well.

On it’s first listen, I would say that this album probably has the most defined songs than any other Fall Out Boy album I’ve listened to. Most of their albums take a few listens to really take apart in your head, and the songs have a habit of running into each other like so much wet paint. Here, there are definite differences between stadium-filler single Centuries and indie-oil-slick The Kids Aren’t Alright. As with almost every album I’ve ever listened to, the pucnhier songs do it for me, so the sleazy, poppy riffs of Uma Thurman and the up-and-down jolt of Novocaine are the standouts as far as I’m concerned.

Look, I sincerely want to be well out of my scene kid phase. But I’m not. I’m twenty years old, and I have spiky purple hair and skinny jeans and a lust for piercings that can’t be sated. And this album appeals to me on that level. It’s not perfection, but it’s already tempted me into another listen with some real showers to keep me around for the growers, with the title track already sneaking on to repeat. This is the comeback I wanted: it’s forcibly punched it’s way through the critical parts of my brain into the bit that doesn’t feel musical snobbery, and I love it.

Quick-Fire Review

Out of Ten: Wildly varies depending on what song I’m listening to, but a sound 7.5.

In a Sentence: If someone were smashing you round the face with a guitar and reading you snippets of rejected Brett Easton Ellis novels while you were tripping on acid, it would sound pretty similar to this.

Best Songs: American Beauty/American Psycho, Novocaine, Uma Thurman, Fourth of July

Worst Songs: Favourite Record, Irresistible

Album Preview: Chronic Happiness by John Helix

Spotlight: John Helix

It’s an unwritten fact (uh, until now I guess) that every college English professor is secretly working on their novel. Their mostly autobiographical tale of woe and heartache that will turn out good in the end unless the protagonist dies (don’t knock it, it’s an easy pay off0. That is, except for John Helix.

This English professor has gone down the more honest path of writing and performing his own songs and, as someone who thinks Morrissey instead of Tennyson when it comes to poetry class, I think it’s a bloody brilliant idea.

His self-described songs of weltschmerz (German for “romantic sadness” don’t you know), is brimming with the kind of retro- tinged pop rock that Elliot Smith was known for before he went the way of Keats (that’s the last one I promise). Helix forthcoming album Chronic Happiness is full of sweet vocal melodies, and downbeat summer guitar; with his new single “I don’t speak Los Angelese” a prime example.

Full of jaunty piano and handclaps, Helix infuses the song with quirky, yet self-aware, lyrics and a dreamily positive delivery that sets him apart from Smith. All this culminates into that unlikely occurrence of a professor who, without even trying, is cooler than his students.

Single of the Week: A Scene In Between by Honeymilk

Happy new year, one and all, and let’s welcome in 2015 the same way I have: grumpy from quitting smoking, fighting off the cold, and listening to Honeymilk.

The Swedish-based group have been on the up for the last twelve months, landing a bunch of radio spots and nods for a clutch of cracking singles and their Sanguine Skies EP. A Scene in Between was the second-last single released from the EP, and it’s an instant classic in the purest sense of that phrase. As soon as I heard the first kick of those melty guitars and Vaccines-tinged vocal lines, I realized that this is precisely what I want 2015 to sound like. It’s crystal-clear in it’s intent, and, at six minutes long, it’s a big chance to take for an indie group. In that running time, they have to prove that they’re not just worth listening to, but that they’re worth listening to for six minutes. In an ambitious piece that takes in everything from percussive bass to vocal and guitar sweeps that smack of the first Stone Roses album, I think they’ve succeeded on both levels. Here is a perfect example of how retro should sound in 2015.