Junior – JuniorLand review

JUNIORCOVERWales is growing in prominence in the pop punk world – Junior are the latest band of many to emerge from the country. The Cardiff based trio consist of members with more than ordinary careers – a professional wrestler, a children’s book author and a head of a non-profit organisation – who bonded over their common love of music. Just like their professions, the members have promised that their sophomore release JuniorLand is far from the usual themes of pop punk music, with the lads not just absorbed by ‘girls and skateboards’.

Whilst openings for other pop punk records I have recently reviewed begin with an in your face introduction, Junior ensure they run things differently from the get go – the first thirty seconds of A House That’s Not Quite A Home instead opts for a stirring quote courtesy of what sounds like an old sample – ‘discouraged, disgruntled, heck no, they’re glad to be here, remember!’. Another difference from the typical opening track is the mellow instrumental that greeted me after the sample – more chilled sounds are reminiscent of circa 2000 Blink 182 and New Found Glory, and I was glad that Junior have been brave enough to venture outside the box. Although in the first half of the song I felt that the lyrics lacked depth, A House That’s Not Quite A Home improves substantially towards the end with powerful rousing repeats of the chorus. Despite the strident, catchy guitar instrumental for second track Maria, dreary lyrics ultimately let the song down. Persuading protagonist Maria to come outside and play with them feels a bit too bland for my personal likening.

That Pretty Dress is a very pretty song and significantly better – there is a step up in the sophistication of the lyricism, complete with an unpredictable guitar rhythm changing from slow to choppy chords, with time for a sweet solo. It is an earnest track that holds its head up on JuniorLand, and captured my attention the whole way through not sticking to expected sounds from a pop punk track. The acoustic feel of Lakeside is enchanting, and it is again exciting to witness Junior try out another new sound, which makes a pleasant easy-listening experience, with passionate meaning behind it.

What remains of JuniorLand is just as spirited as previous songs – barely lasting long enough for you to catch your breath, If I Had the Time I’d Tell You I’m not Sorry is exhilarating through enthralling drum beats provided by Si Martin, and continues with the clever mix of two main vocalists in Matt Attard and Mark Andrews, with their diverse vocals bouncing of each other well. Leading single Anywhere but Here is another gem and was perfect to release as its summery vibe ensures it is memorable. Winding proceedings up, violin invigorated Epilogue (We Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay) concludes with another inspiration and powerful quote.

Junior, I am delighted to say I mostly very much enjoyed my stay listening to your mini album.

JuniorLand will be released on the 16th October on Ambition Records.
You can listen to Anywhere But Here below.

False Advertising – Self titled review

FALSEADVERTISINGWhen someone mentions ‘Manchester’, iconic ground-breaking bands including The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, and arguably alternative music founders The Smiths pop into your head. Now False Advertising want to join the list of credible groups originating from the city, and join the list of bands that people will remember by the next generation. Forming two years ago, the group’s members have kept a low profile, working hard to produce their debut. Since finally unveiling songs online three months ago, Manchester has held its breath in anticipation for a full album, and the wait is almost over, with their self-titled effort scheduled for release on the 4th September.

Unfortunately, the first two tracks of False Advertising, although not necessarily weak songs by no means, are in my eyes a poor decision to open a debut with. First track Breaker does deliver a dark brooding mysterious sound, but vocal, from Jen Hingley, and instrumental alike create a sound all too commonly afflicted with the grunge genre, and ultimately it falls more into the mould of album filler rather than a lead track. Similar words can be expressed about Another Mention – the addition of distortion experimentation works, but overall the track is relatively limpid and I wasn’t wooed by it either.

Don’t let an average beginning put you off the rest of the album; third track Wasted Away turns the fortune of False Advertising’s debut around, and ensures that listening to it isn’t a waste of your time. With a chord sequence almost identical to Lived A Lie by You Me At Six, the riff is catchy, and to new listeners is the perfect introduction to the band. Wasted Away is a leading album track that should have been. Dozer awakens you to a riotous sound which is perfect chaos – screeching guitars and a sneering whip of “it’s not your fault” provides one of the highlights of the album, and hails similar to striking songs from growing grunge prowess Wolf Alice. Following track I Don’t Know again incorporates distortion into Chris Warr’s vocals as he for the first time take command of lead vocals, a smart move which proves far from rebarbative.

Although False Advertising falter on track All Of The Above due to its feckless sound that as a consequence leaves its fate no more than album filler, the album ensures a swift recovery with tracks Cold Shoulder and No Good, laced with dramatic bass from the brainchild of Josh Sellers that draws you into the songs. Jen unleashes rueful emotion on Only Way, vocals that craft a sincere grunge ballad. Finish Line, ironically named as it is actually only the penultimate song, instantly reminded me of a criminally underrated song you find pre-installed on new smartphones, and becomes your own little musical highlight secret. Eventually the finish line is reached with closing track Something Better – with an infectious chorus and enticing guitar melody, it’s a song which is the best possible the album could end by.

Despite a slow start and occasional stumbles, in the end False Advertising is a grunge victory, and ends on a high. It may not propel them to the heights of Manchester’s finest just yet, but it will win them a league of fans.

You can stream the album below.
False Advertising by False Advertising

Spector – Moth Boys review

MOTHBOYSWords: Matthew Drew

Spector fans eagerly awaiting another album packed full of guitar pumped sing-along’s for all occasions will be disheartened to hear that the band have tried to move towards a more mature position, from where they have attempted a lighter approach to song writing with new album Moth Boys, out today via Fiction Records. What this means in practice is that this album has put more emphasis on enigmatic synths and vocals, and less on the kind of choruses which could unite a room in song, day or night.

This is particularly eminent in the Dev Hynes co-write Cocktail Party which almost belongs on a Daft Punk B-Side than a Spector album. It’s cinematic opening and jarring structure which leaps from slow atmospheric sounds to a distinguishably funky beat is certainly a step away from the stadium rock inspired music of old but whether it is a step forward is another matter. The feel of the song is captured in the album artwork which pictures a defunct Berlin nightclub. Like that venue the song undoubtedly has its moments but seems to only fit into a certain mood, time or place – none of which are the casual listeners headphones on a walk to the shops.

Another song which carries the new Joy Division/Kraftwerk fusion of sound is Decade of Decay, although this contribution holds a chorus and beat which pull you into and through to the closing notes before you know it. Hypnotic Kyoto Garden also presents a triumph for the band’s new approach to song writing. It is tender, honest, melancholic and thoroughly enjoyable.

There are moments of familiar relief amid the experimentation, with next single Bad Boyfriend providing a short blast of completely memorable lyricism, but the best of this album is seen when the band have managed to mould their new sound with the old traits. One such example is Stay High, complete with deliciously funky guitar from Jed Cullen amid a richer sound of synths and backing vocals which leaves you gasping for more – and which in truth is far more likely to fill stadiums than anything from the band’s first album Enjoy It While It Lasts.

Other strong successes are lead single All The Sad Young Men and Believer, which demand to be listened to with a sway in your hips and your arms in the air.

Moth Boys is certainly a more mature album from Spector with plenty to dance to, sing along to, and enjoy wholeheartedly. It is however, complete with a few cinematic experiments which could perhaps be shelved in future.

You can listen to All The Sad Young Men below.

Josiah – On Trial review

JOSIAH2The direction of this album is almost certified in the opening 10 seconds of this record from Josiah. Soft, acoustic instrumentation led by a twinkly piano melody, you can almost sense that many of the tracks will follow a similar sound. But Josiah does surprise you with other ideas and influences, although the majority of this album stays in the folk style. The bluesy, upbeat second number Can You Hear It certainly adds an element of diversity to the record, especially in comparison to the opening track. The track also shows some Bob Dylan influence with the great use of harmonica throughout the track, executed slightly better than the shorter track Cold California.

It’s not the only time Bob Dylan comes to mind on the album, as Josiah’s vocal style is at times reminiscent of Dylan, but this works in his favour; it doesn’t feel like he is completely worshiping or ripping off his style, but the influence is there. This doesn’t exactly give him the most unique sound, but perhaps in 2015 this can be considered unique, and I can appreciate the revivalism, much like the debut soul album from Leon Bridges which came out earlier this year, Coming Home.

Tracks like Please really channel the Bringing It All Back Home sound and era of Dylan, and these are the tracks that sound the best for Josiah, he does sound good when he slows things down like on the song Don’t Look Back, but perhaps the lyrics didn’t fit the vibe. There isn’t always that heartfelt raw emotion there like you would find on a Tallest Man On Earth song, which I can definitely also compare his style and sound to.

The tracks are at times quite cleanly produced, so the vocals are brought to the front of the mix and this doesn’t give Josiah the raw emotion that would’ve been apparent if the tracks were a little rougher. The first single Long Gone for instance, here singing about a love interest whom he goes to find at the home but then a person answers and says they’re long gone now, is a nice track but essentially feels like a cleaned up version of a Bon Iver song, especially towards the latter half.

With that said the tracks are all well produced (all-but-one by Josiah), but I think for Josiah’s style they could be a bit more upbeat and faster and it would improve the songs. This isn’t to say him slowing down and doing a folk song is bad, but I’d like to hear more of his blues influence come into future songs, as he has potential.

The track Swing (fairly reminiscent of the track Timothy from The Tallest Man On Earth’s latest album) was produced by Dave Way, who has worked with Fiona Apple and Paul McCartney, and this track benefits from extra instrumentation and gives it more texture, so maybe Josiah could use this style a bit more, as it does add variety to the album. Josiah could reach a wider audience in the near future, especially since we already have someone like Jake Bugg (which still baffles me how he got popular) and it’s exciting to see where he’ll go next after hearing this pretty solid album.

You can listen to Can You Hear It below.

Gilmore & Roberts – Conflict Tourism review

GILMOREROBERTS“Conflict tourism” might at first seem a baffling phrase, but once considered it becomes a thought-provoking one that guides the listening of Gilmore & Roberts’ fourth studio album, set for release on September 18th. A quote from Debra Kamin sets the scene; ‘”People come here every day to see the show,” says Marom, a retired Israel Defense Forces colonel who now works in the tourism industry and brings groups to this point to gaze down on Syria’s bloodletting. “For people visiting the area, it’s interesting. They can go home and tell their friends, ‘I was on the border and I saw a battle.”‘

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominated duo, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, began to notice themes of conflict in their work; not always the war and destruction type, but internal battles. Over the course of eleven tracks, allow the pair to be your tour guides through personal stories, the vignettes so elegantly trapped in a timeless fashioned, suspended between problem and resolution.

Instantly attractive opener Cecilia blends melting vocals with simple shifts of instrumentation among the earthy, worldly backing. Though a sweet song, it touches on repetitive and becomes sickly-sweet once it’s trapped in your head; the rural sound and honey-coated vocals make this apt on all levels. Four minute Jack O Lantern‘s story telling style holds links to folk music in a more traditional sense, whilst layers eerily whisper in the song’s close – an intriguing touch among modern-folk music, but one that leaves it standing out.

A Sandi Thom style floods in with Katriona’s vocals and stripped back to guitar instrumental. This change aids the emotional side of the music, allowing a raw and sensitive side to be better showcased – continuing into Selfish Man, it’s unsurprising to note how the more heartfelt and appealing numbers are often those delivered in first person. An almost rocky punch to Stumble On The Seam pulls the energy levels up whilst the themes thread themselves through, before three minute snippet Balance / Imbalance provides a minimalistic snapshot.

Again, traditional folk embeds itself in the folds of Peggy Airey, story telling and fiddle solos that are an easy highlight of the album guiding the music, and mandolin takes to the forefront of Time Soldiers On. With nothing to hide behind, the duo’s craft is highlighted – and it really is a craft with something so intricate and delicate. An earnest, dreamy feel to Peter Pan adds to the delicacy and love of the album, a blossoming optimism emerging in the lines, “I’m Peter Pan, I’m never growing old”.

Penultimate Warmonger is a snappy and driven number, before haunting Ghost Of A Ring winds up affairs. Deeply personal, so much so that even listening feels intrusive, it’s an anecdote that’s difficult to shift from the mind. Handcrafted and moving, Conflict Tourism is a heartbreakingly honest assortment of folk-y wonderfulness.

You can listen to Peggy Airey below.