Friday, 30 August 2013

This weeks's new music feat. Karen O, Sebadoh, Darkside and more...

The sun has made an effort these last few days and I've got a couple of good tracks suitable to see out the summer before things take a turn for the cold. We've got everything from sunny electronica, weirdo hip-hop and the return of some alt rock veterans to feast your ears upon (can you feast with your ears, that doesn't sound right...). Anyway, happy listening!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Album review:The Jar Family – Jarmalade

(Jar Records)

Made up of a group Cumbrian singer songwriters and musicians coming together to form a collective of sorts, The Jar Family centres around six core members with a larger family coming and going for their live shows. They bring together blues, folk and country with a streamlined 70s classic rock drive. As good as that sounds, for the most part their second album Jarmalade is a by the numbers affair. A pub rock band in style and substance.
It isn't to say its all bad though. Moya Moya is a fun tune you can imagine having a drunken jig to in a bar, the lyrics are performed with a suitably strained delivery as a bunch alcoholic drinks are name checked as it stumbles along, held up by its ramshackle country blues rhythm. Tell Me Baby keeps the scruffy rhythms going and the track's back and forth lyrics sound reminiscent of The Libertines more together moments, its jaunty beat surrounded by duelling harmonica and guitars in its final moments. But unfortunately it all gets worse from there.
Where Do You Come From Babe? sounds like Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe crossed with Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, that is if he'd run out of good lines from his scrapbook. It gets a little more interesting when a female voice enters but unfortunately the lyrics don't improve. In fact there's no lyrical flair on display here, there are no metaphors or symbolism, everything is just literal, with any attempts at soul searching end up being about as deep as a puddle. On top of that, the record is filled with distracting studio trickery, including an over reliance on EQ'd backing vocals, a cheesy and overused technique that doesn't fit in at all with the bands sound.
Despite trying, I couldn't get the idea that Waiting There For You sounded like Flight of the Conchords' Ladies of the World out of my head as the line 'You're a beautiful lady/Picking petals of a daisy' repeated, and its just as cheesy though, I assume, that was not intent. Elsewhere, Tears We Cried sounds like the kind of ballad that Axl Rose could've written when Guns 'n' Roses were at their most bloated and overblown.
Is God My Witness examines religion with all the bite of Christian rock and might be the albums low point, but its not the only offender for poorly thought out lyrics. The band mostly stick to obvious rhyme schemes, leading to some absolutely awful lyrics, by far the worst element in this group. From Paint Me a Picture's poorly thought out social commentary or the perils of social networking on You'll Never Know, its not so much a scathing criticism as much as obvious pot shots.
We need more bands that a rough round the edges, just as at home playing in a small bar as they are larger venues, but I don't know if this band is up to the task. Its all just harmless pub rock, and there is plenty of competent musicianship at hand and a great range of vocals. Maybe if I was in a small crowded pub in an inebriated state my opinion would change, but on record The Jar Family are just a bit bland.

Originally posted on

Friday, 23 August 2013

This week's new music feat. Forest Swords, Volcano Choir and more...

This here is a new segment I thought I'd try out, putting together some of the best music I've run across this past week into one place. I'll try and keep it diverse and interesting, and making sure to put in some release dates as well as any other info I can find. Lets see how it goes.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Album review:The Lucid Dream – Songs of Lies & Deceit

(Holy Are You Recordings)

  On their debut Songs of Lies & Deceit this Cumbrian four piece take on a vein of noise infused psychedelia that informed influential bands like Spacemen 3 and Ride bringing together melodic song writing with the kind of distortion that threatens to derail a song but never quite does. With a name like The Lucid Dream you might expect this to tap into some of the sleepy, stoner vibes of the sixties but the songs here are sharp and focused for the most part, even if they do give in to extended rock freak-out moments from time to time.  
  How's Your Low When You're Low Alone start things off. A simple rock song led by some energetic stomping drums and some big garage rock riffing interspersed with wah pedal abuse before Glue (Song for Irvine Welsh) continues with the straight forward riffs and ups the ante even further, with guitars buried under their own effects dominating the mix as the vocals desperately repeat 'I'm a broken man' delivered with a Stooges-like attitude. A Mind At Ease Is A Mind At Play rushes along at a frantic pace coming across as a track A Place To Bury Strangers could have written while Love in my Veins has some big hooks in it recalling a certain kind of 1990s brit-pop swagger that hasn't been around for a while. Despite its psychedelic leanings, Songs of Lies & Deceit never strays into the territory of obvious meandering solos and simple sixties era pastiche, maintaining a focus and drive throughout, though it does fall short with the lyrics.
  Some of these lyrics can border on cringeworthy, often playing on cliché but sometimes taking it a bit too far. Lines like 'Girl, you are the sweetest thing I ever seen' stand out in a clunky manner. Still, the album is redeemed by songs like Heartbreak Girl, channelling Ronnettes style sixties girl group pop to good effect, though the constant tempo changes don't sit so easily, giving the effect of two or three different songs being jumbled together. Throughout the record vocals are covered in reverb but rarely to the extent that you can no longer make out the lyrics, instead making reference to the walls of sound from Phil Spector productions. They sound confident in these songs with their straight forward, no nonsense approach imbued with a punk rock energy. Its delivered with an appreciation of their influences and enough earnestness to hold it all together, especially when they get that balance between melody and noise just right.

Originally posted on

Album Review:The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars

(Sensibility Recordings)

  The Civil Wars, comprised of singer songwriter team of Joy Williams and John Paul White,
rose to fame in 2011 with the critical and commercial success of their debut album Barton Hollow. It displayed the duo's stunning voices as they traded lines back and forth or harmonised over well-written country and folk songs. After selling over half a million copies and earning themselves two Grammy awards for Barton Hollow, the group suddenly seemed to be on the verge of dissolution, cancelling a European tour due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” whilst also claiming there are not on speaking terms, putting the group on hiatus. Still, despite lacking a willingness to communicate, the duo have managed to return with their self-titled second album.
  The album starts off with rock 'n' roll vitriol and anger on The One That Got Away as fuzzy, crackling electric guitars filling out their sound with more of a stomp than anything heard on their first album. The distortion continues with the fuzzy blues rock of I Had Me A Girl, accompanied by a thudding drumbeat, the kind of track that is made for a sleazy bar in the American South, but the record gets a bit softer from there.
  Whilst inter-band conflicts have worked wonders for other groups like The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac, here it seems to have stifled the duo, as the album they've put together is not as consistent as Barton Hollow, even the delivery which would see them often trading lines and harmonising now sees one them taking the lead more often than not. Tracks like Same Old Same Old, well, sound just like that, veering into the middle of the road territory that popular country music often can, and it isn't the only offender on the album. They try to mix things up with a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins' Disarm, which is pleasant enough, but doesn't have the same motion and drama of the original, which is a shame as their cover of Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love was a great choice as the ending to their first album.
  There are high points though, like the build up that ends Eavesdrop, as Williams earnestly repeats 'Just hold me' as a guitar strums powerfully, but ends to soon. Devil's Backbone is another highlight, a dark country tale of misplaced love, 'Oh Lord, Oh Lord/ What Have I done?/I've fallen in love with a man on the run' ending with a stunning a capella outro. Those voices themselves, which are still amazing whether singing in hushed tones or soaring, but the tension between them isn't the same, despite or because of the strains around the records production. Here, the duo have allowed for the whole scope a studio can bring, bringing in a large ensemble of backing musicians, but it all feels unnecessarily distracting, taking away from the group's talents. It comes across as over-blown, filling out their sound with a full band has taken away from the more personal feel at the centre of Barton Hollow. The album as a whole feels lighter as a result, never grabbing your attention in the same way despite some stand-out moments.

Originally posted on