22 February 2018

Granfalloon - Ambulance

Granfalloon is the musical moniker of Richard Lomax and his folktronica group based in Manchester. Folktronica is a mixture of folk and electronica. Instruments include Omnichords, acoustic guitars, Casio keyboards, and 80's drum machines. Their new single ‘Ambulance' is out on Manchester label The Dogan on 23rd February 2018.  Using home recording system, Granfalloon notes that they/he likes to release songs that might contain imperfections, to give their sound a natural feeling in this pro-tooled world.

“Ambulance” is an atmospheric song, one that is steeped in natural rhythms, which seem to have been an influence on this indie/electronica song.  This is deal with the steps and rituals we all take to keep our mental health together, things that we all do just to get from one end of the map to the other.  There is a gentle nature to “Ambulance”, a sound akin to the likes of Moonbabies and Maps.  As the song progresses, you feel like you on a little journey with the band, it’s repetitive rhythms gaining momentum and suddenly you reach a beautiful crescendo.  You can’t really get a handle on a band with one song, no matter who the artist/band turns out to be. However, “Ambulance” is a great introduction to Granfalloon, it’s a beautiful song which had made me want to explore more of their world.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

"Ambulance" is available from 23rd February 2018, once it has been released, I will update the links for purchasing/streaming the song here.

14 February 2018

Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors - Traitors Club Year 1 EP

Ryan Hamilton is an all-round legend in my books.  I recently conducted an interview with him for my radio show on NE1FM called Attention Please, and he was such a lovely chap.  But he's also a busy guy as well! He is currently getting ready for another UK tour, writing an album with Tony Wright from Terrorvision, whilst also working on a new album with The Traitors.  The fact he never sleeps might help as well, but I digress a little.  This review is all about the latest EP from Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors called Traitor Club Year 1, a compilation of select tracks from songs which were sent out to the Traitor Club in 2017.  The Traitor Club is the name for fans of Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors (don’t call it a Fanclub, he hates that title), and each month members receive two new tracks.  So, after the first year, they've decided to release a few of these tracks as an EP for the great unwashed, a sampler to show what great stuff is happening at the Traitor Club.  So, how do the songs sound?

01 – I’m So Glad

“I’m So Glad” is a song about the first love of your life, the heartache of that relationship ending and how it somehow turned out for the best for everyone.  This is a timeless tale, one which has been re-told many times and will be again.  But I doubt it’ll be done with as much charm and style as this one, as this is a beautiful song.  Yes, the subject might be a little painful in places, but there is also the joy of seeing your former lover happy.  The music is fantastic, the words are heartfelt and it all comes together in under three minutes, what is there not to love?

02 – The Ghost of James Dean

“The Ghost of James Dean” is a heavier song, different to "I'm So Glad" but with an equally important message.  The message of "The Ghost of James Dean" is about living for the moment, taking chances as they come. Dreams are meant to be followed, goals are meant to be reached for and can be achieved.  It’s a bouncy rock number, one which gets better with each spin, cementing itself in your mind for hours after its finished.

03 – Brand New Man

“Brand New Man” is a glam- rock influenced number, which focuses on the end of a relationship which is no longer fit for purpose. Sometimes, you need to make the break for everyone concerned, which can be hard, but it’s also for the best.  The music is the winner on this song, the main riff of the verses just keeps on giving so much joy that it should come with a health warning!

04 – Same Page

“Same Page” is a song about trying to figure out what is happening in a relationship, questioning if everything is going ok and how things can fall apart without people realising.  It’s another hard rock song with a massive sing-along chorus, one that will be sung at the end of the night with a whiskey in the air, and it’ll be a source of comfort for those going through a similar situation.

05 – Sick and Tired

“Sick and Tired” is the sound of a relationship that has ended, when someone’s lies have been exposed and everyone has discovered the truth.  It has a classic rock sound at its heart, a fist-pumping appeal that will make fans of Cheap Trick and The Wildhearts jump for joy.  I love the music here, it just stays with you long after it’s finished, which is a running theme of this EP.

06 – Stranger Across the Street

“Stranger Across the Street” is just over one minute, thirty seconds long and it’s the fastest song on the album.  It’s a crash course in love from afar, with the object of your desire being within reach, but still just a fantasy.  It’s a short, sharp, wham-bam of a track, one that has hints of Social Distortion about it and it’s another which sound fantastic!

07 – Say My Name

“Say My Name” is not a cover of the Destiny’s Child song, but a song about sex – lots of sex with a lover who is so good for you that it makes you feel bad. As well as it's played, it not for me if I'm honest, but that is just for my tastes.  Musically, it’s a little stomper at the end of this EP which is a perfect way to end this EP.

As an advertisement for the Traitor Club, this EP is a brilliant release.  As an advertisement for Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors, this EP is a perfect stop-gap release before their next album, as well as being a fantastic release.  It shows perfectly what they're all about, with seven hard-rocking tracks.  These songs sound as good after twenty listens, as they did the first time I heard them.  I would recommend listening to this EP as soon as it’s release, also heading to see RH&TT when they tour near you, it’ll be a night you won’t forget!

5 out of five – I wish I had extra ears to love this more

Top track – I’m So Glad

At the time of writing, Traitors Club Year 1 EP is not available on streaming sites.

10 February 2018

Ghost//Signals - Queen of the Oxygen Thieves

Ghost//Signals are one of my favourite groups in Newcastle right now, together with The NX, Dunes and Waheela.  Last year, their second single "Start Families, Avoid Shit Parties" made our top ten songs of 2017 (you can read the full list here), their first song "Trauma! Trauma! Trauma!" was a stunning debut as well.  So, here we are with the imminent release of their third single "Queen of the Oxygen Thieves" (release date still to be announced).

"Queen of the Oxygen Thieves" is quite possibly one of the best titles I've ever seen, it's also one of the best songs of the year so far.  With each song, Ghost//Signals show a different side of themselves, a different facet of their soul.  "Trauma! Trauma! Trauma!" was the heavy artillery, "Start Families/Avoid Hip Parties" was the ground troops, this makes "Queen of the Oxygen Thieves" is the air force.  It's a brilliant song, one that should be getting airplay around the world and praise from all corners of the globe.  It's a stunning single, but after this one, will we get a full EP or album?

5 out of five - I wish I had more ears to love this

Top track - well, it's only one song so - Queen of the Oxygen Thieves

You can visit the Ghost//Signals website here, once Queen of the Oxygen Thieves is released, it will be available here.

You can follow the activities of Ghost//Signals on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Queen of the Oxygen Thieves is not available on streaming sites.  If this changes, I'll add the links here.

The Limiñanas - Shadow People

The Limiñanas have a mission, to bring their own brand of French Pop, mixed with the union of Velvet Underground & The Jesus & Mary Chain, as well as a very large influence of Italian film scores.  The Limiñanas starts in 2009 and they are based in Cabestany, in the south of France. Shadow People is the follow up to the 2016 release, Malamore.  To be honest, until I was given the release on a recommendation, I'd not heard anything about The Limiñanas before.  But I'm always willing to give a band a chance, so what do they sound like?

01 – Ouverture

“Ouverture” starts Shadow People with a rugged, aggressive country/indie hybrid instrumental that bring to mind such bands as Alabama 3, Holy Fuck and Sons & Daughters.  The sound of the song is a singular entity, it's a furious number that sounds as if the devil himself is behind that band and screaming them onwards towards oblivion.  It’s a beautiful song, one which grabs your attention straight away and it sounds so beautiful, so my interest is already invested in this band.

02 - Le premier jour

“Le premier jour” translates to "The First Day" in French, it is another song that has a beautiful soul. It has a powerful sounding performance (even though the percussion is minimal in some ways), there is a slow build towards its eventual drifting crescendo, which is mixed with a beautiful vocal performance.  Can I understand the words? No, sadly I was never good at languages in school, even after trying with further education classes. But it doesn’t stop me from appreciating the joy of the song, it’s a real treat to listen to, even though it’s not something I would have usually gone for.

03 – Istanbul Is Sleepy

“Istanbul Is Sleepy” brings the energy back to Shadow People, with a drone-driven number that once again feels as if the fires of hell are at your heel.  Featuring Anton Newcombe (of the Brian Jones Town Massacre), this song is one of the standout tracks of Shadow People.  I love the sound that they have created here, a psychedelic, drone, indie, almost electronica piece that will sound at home in any situation (apart from possibly at a church ceremony).  Even then, I would still chance it as it’s a kick-ass song.

04 – Shadow People

The title people of Shadow People is a bit of a strange one if I’m honest, and I cannot put my figure on why.  It's certainly not the vocal performance of Emmanuelle Seigner, and the music sounds good.  But after the powerful “Istanbul Is Sleepy”, "Shadow People" comes across a little lethargic in comparison.  That said, it’s still better than the best percentage of chart music out there, with another slab of neo-country psychedelia.

05 – Dimanche

“Dimanche” is another collaboration track, this time featuring the talents of Bertrand Berlin, with this high energy piece that focuses on their French Pop & Italian soundtrack influences, with a haunting spoken word vocal performance. But they have also given it a retro feeling that is also modern at the same time.  Because of this cross-stitch effect, there is a hybrid nature to the song, but it’s doesn’t easily sit in any given category or style.  It’s a fascinating number, one that is worth further investigation.

06 – The Gift

Featuring the unmistakable bass sound of Peter Hook, “The Gift” is an Indie-boys wet dream as it invokes so many memories of Joy Division that it should come with a health warning.  It's not ashamed of its influences, it wears them on its sleeve for all to see.  However, the only criticism I have is that it’s far too short, but that does not stop it being another brilliant track.

07 – Motorizatti Marie

“Motorizatti Marie” is a beautiful track, with powerful drumming, heavy guitar strumming and wild-western feeling. It could have been extracted from one of the 1960’s Spaghetti Western movies, one that has been brought into the present and given a fresh production.  I hate to repeat myself, but the word driven comes to mind with "Motorizatti Marie.  It truly sounds as if the Morning Star himself is driving the band towards their final goal, where they're willing companions towards that final cliff edge.  It’s a good job that it sounds amazing as well, it’s definitely one of the best songs on Shadow People.

08 – Pink Flamingos

With it’s reversed guitar beginning, “Pink Flamingos” is a throwback to the hippy sound of the 1960’s, with that psychedelic feeling to the sound coming to the forefront.  I must admit, as nice as the music is sounding, I’m not engaging with “Pink Flamingos” as much as other songs on the album, but it is still a decent number.

09 – Trois Bancs

“Trois Bancs” brings the drone element back to Shadow People, with it’s massive sounding guitars, aggressive paced sounds and repetitive droning to the rhythm section that is supporting a gruff male vocal, that could easily have been added to an acoustic guitar.  I like this song, even though it actually goes on a beat or two too many for my own tastes, but that fact does not stop it being a good number.

10 – De la part des copains

Considering how fast paced some of these songs on Shadow People have been, it’s no surprise that “De la part des copains” ends the album on a slightly gentler note.  It has all the hallmarks of a great album ending, with a sense of a finale to the music.  You have the mournful tone that suggests a circus is about to leave town or the hero has finally beaten his foe, but ultimately succumbs to his injuries.  This instrumental ends the album in the right way, it leaves you wanting more and there isn't higher praise I can give this album.

Shadow People" is a very cool album, it's a stylistic record that sounds as if it's been taken from a time in the past and given a new coat of paint.  The various guest appearances don't overshadow The Limiñanas themselves, but it helps enhance the music, taking them to a higher level.  "Shadow People" will be an early entry to a lot of best of 2018 lists around the world, this is something I cannot disagree with as it sounds brilliant.  Viva la Shadow People!!!

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track – Istanbul Is Sleepy

You can purchase Shadow People on Amazon here.

Dunes - Dunes EP2

Last year, Dunes were responsible for one of my favourite songs of 2017, with the mighty "Love from Below" off their debut EP, Dunes.  Since the release of that EP, they have been gigging up and down the country, they have also supported the likes of Monster Magnet as well, so things have been going well for them.  But a few weeks ago, there were rumblings of a new release coming and on 2nd February, then finally released Dunes EP2.  As far as titles go, it's sort of following the Led Zeppelin route.  But joking aside, it keeps it simple and to the point.  So, how does this EP sound?

01 – Everything Is Cool

“Everything Is Cool” was released a few weeks in advance of Dunes EP2 being released, out of the all the tracks on the EP it’s the closest in sound to Dunes EP1.  So, having it start the EP makes a lot of sense, as it acts as a natural bridge between the two.  Its a brilliant mixes of heavy stoner riff with a disco-rock sensibility in the bridges, there are some pounding drums interlaced with feedback.  This is all held together with an infectious riff that is as rewarding the first time you hear it to the last, it's a class opening track.

02 – Simian Circus

“Simian Circus” is a relentless beast, a snarling number that looks at the world and Dunes have no problem telling us what is wrong (spoiler alert – it’s us).  To call this song furious is not giving the song full justice, it feels like this comes from the heart and it’s one of those moments fury and passion collide to make an aggressive sounding number that makes a lot of sense.  I love the riff that keeps everything together on this song, you’ll have it in your head for days after you first hear it.

03 – Seapig

“Seapig” is now my new favourite song from Dunes, and I don’t say that lightly.  It is riff after riff after motherfucking riff on this one, there is no let up as it moves seamlessly from verse to chorus to crushing ending.  The chorus though, man alive that thing has a life of its own!  With one of the silliest titles of the EP (sorry lads, it made me laugh when I first read it), Dunes have made a gigantic statement on “Seapig”, what a tune!

04 – Black Bridge

“Black Bridge” in comparison to “Seapig” is a moody little bugger with it’s slower sound, a feeling of the desert and Middle-Eastern influence on the riff.  As one of the longest tracks of the EP, it’s a meaty number, but one that is worth investing in as it ultimately rewards you richly.  Just one thing though, it’s the weakest track on the EP as well.  Not saying I’m not a fan of it, just pointing out that the other songs are stronger than this one, I’ll let you ponder that for a few moments.

05 – Hulk

“Hulk” ends Dunes EP2 in style, with a song that not only changes as it progresses, but that wins you over in style.  For the first few spins, I was not really getting it.  Something felt missing until you get to the end of the song.  That ending is the biggest draw on “Hulk” as Dunes go for broke and leave the audience in a state of hypnotic euphoria.  The change the style, pace and feedback a lot toward the end of the song, but it all adds the charm of “Hulk”.

With Dunes EP2, Dunes have taken their sound and given it a little bit of a polish, tweaked a few things and made themselves a leaner band, with a hint a fury to their style.  It’s a brilliant EP, each song (even the weakest track) is an instant hit for me, with each song being a strong addition to their set.  I wouldn’t skip any of the songs here, as each one requires your attention once it has started playing.  I said before that Dunes are one of my favourite bands in the North-East at present, this release cements that statement even further and it also lays down the gauntlet for other bands to pick up.  If you haven’t already realised, I’m telling you that Dunes EP2 is great and you should purchase it now.  I'm also looking forward to the inevitably titled Dunes EP3....

5 out of five – I wish I had more ears to love this

Top track - Seapig

You can purchase Dunes EP 2 (as well as their other releases) on the Dunes Bandcamp page here. 

You can follow the activities of Dunes on their Facebook page here. 

At present, Dunes EP 2 is not available on stream services, I'll update here if this ever changes.

7 February 2018

Dream Wife - Dream Wife

The hype machine behind Dream Wife is strong, I've been hearing their name long before I heard any of their music.  So, who is this three-piece punk act?  Formed in Brighton, but now based in London, Dream Wife is a punk trio who take their influences from the likes of David Bowie, Sleigh Bells, Peaches, Talking Heads, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Be your own, and many more. Their latest video for the song "Hey Heartbreaker" has been getting a lot of attention, with a strange vision of the future where songs are played by robots, and they are held against their will in a sleazy bar to perform forever.  It's a strange video, but I can see why it's getting attention from all areas of the press.  But what about the album, how has that turned out?

01 - Let's Make Out

"Let's Make Out" is a song about sex, attraction, and shyness.  It's an energetic yet standard punk opening that hits all the right moves. I can't say I'm bowled over by it, but it's not doing anything bad either.  It's a decent opening, one which I'm sure will go down well with their audience.

02 - Somebody

You can hear the Bowie influence on "Somebody", it shines out of this old-school rock track for all to see.  It's another decent number, and I can see the appeal, but it doesn't quite hit the mark for me.  This review is short and sweet, like the song itself.

03 - Fire

"Fire" feels like it's about to explode, it's bubbling along and then it drops in energy.  Even when we get to the chorus and bridge sections, it's a case of doing ok, but it doesn't contain that extra something special to make it memorable, to give it character.  Once again, the track is missing that attention-grabbing factor.

04 - Hey Heartbreaker

"Hey Heartbreaker" is the song of the moment for Dream Wife, it's a glam rock number that has swagger engraved into its very essence.  This will be well received by their audience, but I'm still not feeling the excitement of hearing something new.  It's decent enough with a glam-edge, but it has been done before.

05 - Love Without Reason

"Love Without Reason" mixes the band's classic rock sound with a dream-pop/shoegazing sound, creating another Alternative love song that talks about the beginning of a relationship, when love is all new and everything is coming together slowly.  This is the first song that I've engaged with from the very start, it just works for me and it has the right amount of distortion and love mixed together to create this song.  It's not perfect, but it's standing out from the crowd on this album.

06 - Kids

"Kids" is back on the glam-influenced trip, with a song about the days of youth, how those feelings will never end and how they'll never grow old, even though there will be changes.  "Kids" has a nice sentiment, it's a song that will ring true to some people, but the underlying level of confusion in the song distracts me a bit. 

07 - Taste

"Taste" is a song about wanting to be with someone, having the courage to lay your feeling out in the open, hoping that the other person reciprocates the feelings.  It continues the trend of the album for me, it sounds decent enough and it's not a bad song, but it's also not connecting with me either which is a running theme with Dream Wife.

08 - Act My Age

"Act My Age" is an aggressive number, with a righteous anger, stemming from the fact that someone is telling them to act their age after they admitted fear to a situation.  It's a sentiment that I understand, I don't think anyone cannot appreciate those feelings.  It's another interesting number, it has an energy that gives it an edge that has not always been apparent on this album.

09 - Right Now

"Right Now" is a song about wanting to meet someone, maybe spend the night together, and to basically do something other than being bored. To be honest, "Right Now" has a filler feeling to it, it's glam rock stylings falling a little flat with no spark to the song sadly.

10 - Spend the Night

"Spend the Night" is another song about love and the desire to have a companion for the night, and the request is mixed with a subtle vulnerability.  It's a gentle song, not a ballad in any way, shape or form, but one that shows a vulnerability that is endearing. I really like this song for that reason alone, the ability to admit your emotions is a beautiful thing in this world.

11 - F.U.U.

"F.U.U." (aka Fuck You Up) is a defiant middle finger to the world, an anthem for the self-aware and a threat of harmful intent to wrongdoers.  After "Spend the Night", it's a polar opposite in terms of context, but it makes sense at the same time.  If you're going to end an album, you might as well go out with a bang and "F.U.U." certainly does that.  I must applaud this one as well, it might not be exactly to my taste, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Dream Wife have released a decent album here, one which I know will be well received by their audience, and for people who love their sound to be retro, but who are still to explore all of the classics.  But that retro sound just reminds me too much of their influences for Dream Wife to stand out of the crowd for me, it just doesn't have the required level of influences and originality to make more than a passing glance for me. It's not a bad album at all, the music is decent, but they need something else to make their songs seem special and it's not quite there. I hope that this acts as a platform for something else, as the world sorely needs bands like Dream Wife, because the Rock world is far too male orientated.  I will be looking for album number two, just to see where they have gone from here.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but it's not quite there yet.

Top track - Spend the Night

You can purchase Dream Wife (Album) on Amazon here.

You can purchase Dream Wife (Album) from the Dream Wife Bandcamp page here. 

You can visit the Dream Wife website here. 

You can follow the activities of Dream Wife on Facebook here.

You can stream Dream Wife (album) on Spotify here. 

You can stream Dream Wife (album) on Deezer here. 

You can stream Dream Wife (album) on Tidal here.

3 February 2018

Weedpecker - III

It's time for the first Cover Roulette of the year!!! For my first pick, I've gone for III by Warsaw psychedelic stoners, Weedpecker.  I know nothing about these guys, zip, zilch, nowt!  So, a quick read of their Facebook page shows that they first came together in 2012, they have released two other albums (Weedpecker and II, I'm sensing a pattern), and III was released on 5th January 2017.  The image of a river, surrounded by a forest and with broken lines in the sky and water is captivating, it grabs your attention and it makes you curious as to what the music sounds like.  So, without further ado, let's find out......

01 - Molecule

After a cascade of guitar loops, Weedpecker drops this psychedelic shoegazing rock and it's easy to see why this band is currently gaining a lot of hype.  Their sound is timeless, heavy in debt to Pink Floyd in place, but their originality is engrained in this song as well, more than for them to claim it as their own.  The beautiful opening gives way to some heavy riffs, which adds a layer of depth that adds another layer to this song.  Overall, this is a good opening number for this album.

02 - Embrace

"Embrace" is the longest song on this album, just over ten minutes in length and it's not for people with a short attention span.   You do feel like you've been on a journey on this one, but you always do when you're listening to such a long song.  I could write a whole blog just based on this album, but I'll have to do that another day. It's a towering song on this album, definitely worth the effort!

03 - Liquid Sky

"Liquid Sky" marks the midway point of III, with another psychedelic journey through the more active landscapes of Progressive Rock.  The song feels like the band is constantly going to break into another note drenched solo, with beautiful notes cascading out of your speakers and it all pools down into this dream filled song.  A beautiful, glorious number that never fails to deliver, it just hits the right spot each time.  It's the best song on offer here, hands down!  Again, it's another lengthy number, but it's well worth the effort as there are some many great passages of music on this one!

04 - From Mars to Mercury

"From Mars to Mercury" is the shortest track of this album, and it's still just over six and a half minutes long!  It's quite possibly the most aggressive song on this record, it never seems to want to stay still for too long.  The sound of this song brings to mind that wonderful Canadian Rock trio, Rush, I think that is as big a compliment as I can give this band, as they also (once again) add their own identity as well to "From Mars to Mercury", which is refreshing to hear in this day and age.

05 - Lazy Boy and the Temple of Wonders

The album ends with "Lazy Boy and the Temple of Wonders", and we find Weedpacker keeping to form on this track.  Pink Floyd daydreamers, Porcupine Tree riffing in places and their own tones tattooed all over it like a snake, it's a song that sounds as if it's hunting its prey.  It takes a while to get going if I'm honest, but you should keep faith with it, you'll love the results in the end!

Weedpecker is a brilliant band, their music is something that will please anyone who has ever needed something to lose their mind into, to empty all their thoughts, anxieties and energy and let the music was over them.  Their homebrew mixture of shoegazing, progressive rock and alternative sensibilities is very intoxicating, so much so that it should come with a health warning.  Now, this is one for a very specific audience, the stoners, the prog enthusiasts, the people who value notes and musical numbers that come with their time zones.  You will either love this or hate it, personally, I think it's a great record, but I'm a big progressive rock fan these days. If there is one problem I have with III, it's that it doesn't feel as if there is anything personal on the record.  It is a technically brilliant record, but it's that big that it misses a bit of the small detail. However, that doesn't change the fact that it still sounds brilliant, I'm definitely counting this as a win for Cover Roulette!

7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Liquid Sky

You can purchase III on Amazon here.

You can purchase III (and other Weedpecker albums) on the Weedpecker Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Weedpecker on Facebook here.

You can stream III on Spotify here.

You can stream III on Deezer here.

You can stream III on Tidal here.

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