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955

Album review: Max Jury // debut album

Archive, News, Pop, Rock

June 4, 2016

I’m not even going to try to deny my love for Max Jury’s debut album. When you review, you sometimes just have to give in and just admit you blatantly love something “just because.” And while I’m aware that answer wouldn’t get you far in school, music simply makes us feel stuff, right?

So what’s the deal with this boy from Des Moines, Iowa? So many questions answered with even more questions. Because that’s what’s happening. As you dig into this debut album in the pocket of Max’s corner of the universe, it’s like when you were a kid and your dad built you pillow fort. That excitement when you first drew the blankets to the side and your imagination took you wherever you wanted to go.

‘Numb’ starts of the album, a slow smooth tune, eloquently showing off the vocal chords of this guy. There is a sweetness and lightness to his voice, something a little undefinable but inviting. It seems effortless with the choir on ‘Princess’ and the faster paced ‘Beg & Run’ where Jury sings “Say that you’re alone but you know better / don’t know where you’re going even though you have time / It’s not romantic to take this for granted” (the guitar riff has been stuck in my head for a good two days now.)

Songwriting-wise we’re going to have to touch the subject of the likes of Elton John and Gram Parsons. Drop this kid into the mix and perhaps a new generation will take notice to the art of songwriting before a riff or a beat. “Everybody’s always saying to look over your shoulder / the grass is always greener and I should do what I’m told” he sings on ‘Love That Grows Old’ which is the epitome of that those classics mentioned above. And with that voice, it would seem the soulful Americana was destined for him.

Max Jury fills a space that we didn’t even know was missing from the music scene. Besides the obvious phenomenal songwriting and melody, the final product; what he has put together as a whole — music, feel, atmosphere, authenticity, songwriting and so forth, that’s so rare to hear on a debut album.

You feel like you’re in good hands throughout the extent of the eleven songs. He raises a curiosity. Like peeking into someone’s diary where some of the letters and names have been crossed out. So you listen to the song again, because human nature tells us to continue looking for answers. So many questions answered with even more questions. The fine line of delivering to satisfy and connect with the listener while engaging and still leaving them with questions and want for more. He knows how to walk it.

Article by Flipse Flebo

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959

Album review: Sunset Sons // Very Rarely Say Die

Archive, News, Rock

April 4, 2016

Remember back in the 90s when delusional music snobs proclaimed piano has no place in rock’ n roll? (They obviously didn’t know of David Bryan, Jerry Lee Lewis or Freddie Mercury.) Well if there was any doubt left, Sunset Sons definitely proves it’s got a place.

The quartet hailing from the surf destination Hossegor (members originating from both Australia and the England) released their debut album Very Rarely Say Die following up on a couple of EPs released last year. This album, however, is unquestionably made to be played live. From the slow catchy ooh’s on ‘Bring The Bright Lights’ to the hit ‘On The Road’ you can almost hear the crowd clap and sing along.

And it’s how the band was made as well. From rehearsing covers in the summer and playing gigs at ski resorts in the winter, the boys are well-versed in stage presence, energy, and musical capability. They supported Imagine Dragons on their latest European stadium tour and the words “best support act ever” kept being thrown around on social media.

There are longing, escapism, and a pinch of catchy rock n roll mixed with a laid back approach. Enough direction to fuse the catchy tunes with the laidbackness, enough escapism to balance the riffs. And that is how you come out on top. Older fans will appreciate the new takes on earlier songs like the beautiful and longing ‘Loa’ (man do this band know how to bring out the harmonies, well done Rob), as well as a predicted new crowd-favourite ‘Bring The Bright Lights’ which for me personally stands the strongest. Slow pace but with a big chorus and a guitar riff that gets stuck in your brain for days.

The band is still in its early years, so the compilation of songs range from old to brand new which suggests they have dabbled a little with the genres. Take ‘Lost Company’ that kind of has a folky vibe to it, and ‘I Remember’ which shines a light on what a brilliant guitarist Rob Windram is. The synergetic relationship between the four musicians is a result of the many live gigs they’ve got under their belt. Jed Laidlaw is a fantastic drummer, bassist Pete Harper and Rob as mentioned before, are on point. And Rory Williams has a voice you definitely want to hear more of.

They do save the best for last, at the end of the album we find ‘I Can’t Wait’ and it is just Rory and a piano. You can feel the end of the summer where the wind is getting a tad colder, the sun sets earlier than you would like, and you cherish the warmth before autumn comes and takes it all away.

Luckily spring is just arriving, you should go and hear the album live. Sunset Sons are currently on a headline tour promoting Very Rarely Say Die. For more info visit sunsetsons.com.

Article by Flipse Flebo

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1048

Album review: AURORA // All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

Archive, News, Pop, Singer/Songwriter

March 17, 2016

Aurora Aksnes explains her album in one sentence, “My album, it’s mainly about how bad experiences can be good memories.” And despite the dark pop delving into the melancholic spectra of songwriting, there is still a feeling of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, in the debut album of the 19-year-old Norwegian.

It starts off with the tranquil first single of the album, ‘Runaway’ where she sings “And I was running far away / would I run off the world someday? / Nobody knows.” But it steps up the strength in ‘Conqueror’ with big drums and an even bigger lyrical surroundings. And you would be deaf not to notice a pinch of Florence + The Machine reminiscing in between the beats.

AURORA plays around with the elements of the earth and the corresponding elements of light – or the lack thereof. In particular, with the song ‘Running With The Wolves’ she dances gracefully on the right side of the lines. It never engages too much with the heavy melancholy that can drain the life of a song, it keeps a subtle grip on lightness and anticipation which gently knocks on the door for the duration of the album.

‘Through The Eyes Of A Child’ shows a very honest young woman, but with great perception of the world around her, and inside of her. “World is covered by our trails / scars we cover up with paint / watch them preach in sour lies / I would rather see this world through the eyes of a child.” If this were the 90s, AURORA would be the kind of artist you would pull out the booklet of the CD for, and read every lyric on the album. There’s substance to her, and the term an old soul trapped in a young body seem very fitting.

She manages to bring the listener aboard her ship, and it’s a boat you don’t want to get off of. We get to see the world through a pair of spectacles, a reality painted with the words of a fairytale; anecdotes that tell the unsweetened and sometimes unkind truths while remaining hopeful. On both ‘Murder Song 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and ‘Warrior’ there’s a sincereness in which Aurora spills her realities. She has been playing the piano since childhood, and it shows, because it is by far the piano-driven songs that are her forte.

She might be singing she’s running away, but AURORA is running towards something quite special with her debut album. If this is what she delivers at just 19, even our universe will not limit her.

(Social Media photography by Nicecleanwhite)

Article by Flipse Flebo

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1989

Album review: debut album // Nothing But Thieves

Archive, News, Rock

October 23, 2015

A couple of days before Nothing But Thieves released their debut, they signed with RCA Records, pushing the US release to early 2016, and while they will have to wait, it is without a doubt a great way to kick off one’s debut.

‘Excuse Me’ opens the album with some heavy and steady drums, singing “excuse me while I run” but my dear boys, there is no need for excuses. This introduction has singer Conor stretching his lungs and we have officially boarded the boat of rock. ‘Ban All The Music’ – an ironic title that does not necessarily sound like a hit single — ended up doing well on airplay earlier this year, as well as positive feedback from their fan base.

In the middle of the album, we find ‘Graveyard Whistling’ that was previously released on an EP in 2014. If there is a song you want to play someone to introduce them to Nothing But Thieves, it is this one. In three minutes and 52 seconds, you have an idea what this band is about. An absolute highlight has to be one of the quieter songs ‘Lover, please stay’ because A) Conor’s voice is outstandingly good, it is goosebumps-inducing, and B) here we have the Jeff Buckley Vibe, and that can never ever be a bad thing.

In an article earlier this year, I said lead singer Conor Mason “most of all reminds me of a 1992 young version of (a less disturbed and drug-free) Joshua Homme, mixed with Matthew Bellamy’s vocal range.” And it is true, there is a definite Muse atmosphere when he opens his mouth, and while the easy way out of a review is to compare them to artists before them and say “this I like this I do not like” it’s impossible to not address is vocal.  He falls into the same prestigious category of rock musicians alongside Homme, Bellamy, Bono and Thom Yorke. (All singers rock musicians with a broader vocal range than the norm.) That is all there is to it, and it should be applauded.

If you as an artist is strongest as a live act, it can be a downright nightmare to translate that to a recorded album. When you play live, you can feed off the audience, you are in the moment. But what about when you are in a studio? The technique is good and all, but you have got to mean it. You have to break the code and make the connection from stage to studio. Luckily, it sounds like Nothing But Thieves could do it in their sleep.

The closing song ‘Tempt You (Evocatio)’ is the song for your playlist when you are heading home after a gig. It is a comedown, a lure, it is a flirt and a siren drawing you in. And a beautiful one at that. It is splendid in how it builds atmospherically in contrast of lyrics, and if you had forgotten to breathe for a little while, this one is one big breath of oxygen.

They have achieved an album people want to listen to more than once. That might sound like a silly accomplishment, but it is vital for the listener. You want to listen and feel it out again and again. Whenever you click play on ‘Itch’ you discover new layers, you want to keep listening to that intro of ‘Trip Switch’. And with all this, it sounds like they haven’t made any compromises In terms of what product they wanted to attain and deliver.

Article by Flipse Flebo

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1644

Album Review: Borns // Dopamine

Archive, News

October 22, 2015

Borns has rocked everyone – literally – with the release of his quirky electro-pop debut album, ‘Dopamine’. He takes each listener on a smooth sailing electric odyssey with songs like ‘Holy Ghost’ and upbeat tracks like ‘American Money’. There are tinges of funk sprinkled throughout, evident in ‘Dopamine’ and ‘Fool’. This compliments the balance between a few slow songs where he croons soulfully, like on the standout track ‘Clouds’. It slows everything down, transcending time and space as it whisks us away to a higher place.

‘Dopamine’ is a fresh take on psychedelic pop. With the sounds of Tame Impala and MGMT, Borns makes the electronica genre all his own.

Infectious melodies and soft synths make for a pleasant listen, for songs that tackle every topic.

Electrifying and shiny, Borns’ ethereal falsetto brings a new layer of buoyancy making each track flow into the next. A sense of clarity washes over with each lyric, accompanied by a quaint feeling of distance.

Far away enough to be harmless, but one still ponders the emotions given off by the standout track ‘American Money’.

“So take me to the paradise in your eyes/
Green like American money/
You taste just right/
Sweet like Tennessee Honey”

It has a wistful and dreamy Lana Del Rey-esque vibe.

Track 5, ‘The Emotion’ is another slower song, pretty but powerful.

Overall the album is an eccentric taste of bubblegum induced psychedelia.

“Wanna feel that stream of dopamine,” he sings.

We’re ready.

Hit play and prepare to be mesmerized, because as the 10th track states, Borns is about to be an ‘Overnight Sensation’.

 

 

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1113

Album Review: Carly Ray Jepsen // E-mo-tion

Archive, News, Pop, Singer/Songwriter, Videos

September 7, 2015

This past Friday Carly Ray Jepsen released her third album “E-mo-tion”, and shes has changed her own game with this one. It’s been said that Jepsen has been having somewhat of and identity crisis lately when it comes to her music, but if this album is the result of that crisis, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is elctro-pop heaven.

Carly has really done something amazing with this album. She has broken out of her regular mould of annoying teen-pop and emerged into a new sound all together. She has brought something really dynamic and comprehensive to the table with ‘E-mo-tion’. This album has changed my perception of Carly and her ability to produce something that is energetic and progressive but without the aggravating pre-teen sensibility that came with her two previous albums.

Although the track ‘I Really Like You’ was included in the compilation, which is basically the albums version of ‘Call Me Maybe’, I still can’t help but love the song. Many people where sceptical about what ‘E-mo-tion’ would bring when she released this song back in March. But, she managed to get the ball rolling again when she released ‘Run Away With Me’ which could quite possibly be one of the best songs of the summer.

The theme of the album is quite obviously love. With songs about crushes, unrequited love, falling in and out of love everything and anything connected to the emotion that is love. The great thing about this album is that there is a song for everyone included on this album; seriously I dare you to try and say there isn’t one song you don’t at least like a little bit.

‘E-mo-tion’ is definitely a step in the right direction for Carly Ray Jepsen and I am not the only person who feels that way. She currently has a 4.5/5 rating on iTunes and has been receiving rave reviews across the board. One article even went as far as saying this album might just be better than Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, and even as a pretty big T Swift supporter, I might have to agree. This is the kind of music Canada needs to be producing and as a fellow Canuck like Carly, I can say she has done out music industry a solid with this album and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Article By Emily D’Orazio

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1504

Album Review: Brother & Bones // debut album

Archive, News, Pop, Rock

September 4, 2015

The British band Brother & Bones kicks off their debut album with extreme velocity in ‘Kerosene’, with an almost Tom Petty-like ambiance exposed to Pearl Jam. Whether or not it is deliberate, they toss out the band’s previous acoustic folk vibes as heard on the last two EPs. The folk atmosphere is still there, but they lean towards a much more rock filled picture, and it suits them. What is still very clear is that singer Rich Thomas has one of the best vocals coming out of the UK in years, if not decades. Authority and delicacy ooze when he opens his mouth. He could be citing a phonebook and you would believe every word he sings.

Their reputation as a live act has fast been building for years. With supporting Bastille and Ben Howard, and being busy touring amongst themselves almost non-stop, (and more so than any other band at this point in their career), means that the expectations to deliver the atmosphere and live performance onto a full-length album were very high.

The self-titled album has a majority of new songs, except for ‘Raining Stone’, ‘To Be Alive’ and ‘For All We Know’ which all have been re-recorded and given a fresh rock sound to fit in. ‘Omaha’ is as dense and reckless as ‘Kerosene’, preaching (for the lack of better words) that “I’m all for a line in the sand / I’m all for the mark of a man / I’m all for one and one for something that’s worthy of all.”

Depending on what you as a listener define as the success criteria, there are more than just a few highlights. It is evident that they have been honing in on what is Brother & Bones lyrically as well as melodically. The draft or outline for their sound has been polished before their debut album and that is no coincidence. Most bands take the first two records to decode and enhance what their sound is as a unit, as a collaboration, but these guys did it beforehand, and with big majestic sounds and broad lyrics, that is an advantage. There is no sound-confusion to overshadow or take focus from what they’re trying to convey. This is especially present on ‘Everything To Lose’ halfway through the album.

The longest and in my opinion strongest song is saved for last. ‘If I Belong’ is just plain beautiful. It is grand, it is bright and it is gratified. With the words “They’ll string us up for living like we’re young / tie me to the sky I’ve just begun / until I feel the hours fall from my lungs / still keeping on / help me up if I belong.” Rich Thomas and the rest of the guys concludes what is an indisputably solid debut.

Brother & Bones embarks on a UK/European fall tour beginning next week. For more info go to brotherandbones.com

Article by Flipse Flebo

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836

Album Review: Martha // Courting Strong

Pop

July 31, 2015

Last winter, I found myself struck with a profound sense of musical awe in Durham City’s stuffiest alternative venue. The primary stimulus? A local group of dynamic pop-punksters, otherwise known as Martha. Since taking the Northern gigging circuit by storm, their gloriously rugged raucous has proved utterly inescapable for adjacent music fans and journalists alike: last year, after the release of numerous singles and a clamorous EP, the band finally dropped their long-awaited debut album.

‘Courting Strong’ appears primarily as the epitome of zealous pop punk records, exploding into existence with the stomp-and-shout riffs of ‘Cosmic Misery’. Each and every track strikes as a refreshing combination of both light pop and heavy alternative influences, lending the album a sound that can only really be described as the Northern lovechild of Los Campesinos! and the Undertones. Most importantly, its chewy core of DIY punk mentality casts a heavy fog of thunderous guitar and giddy pace over the album, clashing wonderfully with the distinctly home grown production.

The final product is nothing less than a subtly varied musical masterpiece- despite the presence of a heavier edge, it remains full to the brim with the contagious lyrical quirks and itchy choruses so often found in indie-pop, as firm fan favourite ‘Bubble In My Bloodstream’ reveals. Naturally, this arises from the band’s uniquely evocative range of vocal talent- whilst three contrasting voices can be heard throughout, an undeniable sense of musical and vocal synergy remains ever present.

Clearly, this album is far more than your average indie singalong number, pressed onto coloured vinyl: rather, it exists with a deeply rooted loyalty to nostalgia, sentiment, and liberation. A homely sense of the authentic (as can be seen on any true northern record) can be found in most of the lyrics, with references ranging from that of lovesick adolescence to the intimacy of Durham’s riverside paths. In fact, the lyrical content rarely strays from the working-class values held at the centre of North Eastern culture. With starkly emotive tracks nestled alongside the witty politics of ‘Sleeping Beauty’- a judicious anthem in defiance of hefty gender roles- it becomes abundantly clear that this debut is a rare, multi-faceted gem.

It can certainly be said that Martha have produced a politically-driven sound that is somewhat difficult to pin down. But I see this as an important victory: just as London and Manchester lay claim to ‘The Clash’ and ‘the Queen is Dead’, ‘Courting Strong’ is an incredibly genuine and uplifting album to be savoured by those in Durham and beyond.

Article by Emily Ingram

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886

Album Review: Jason Isbell // Something More Than Free

Archive, Country, Editors Choice, Folk, Singer/Songwriter

July 26, 2015

Jason Isbell hails from the state of Alabama. With the drawl when he sings, and the dusty, slow, southern atmosphere that fills his music, that is a secret to no man. Something More Than free follows up on the enormously well received 2013 album Southeastern. With producer Dave Cobb on board yet again in his studio in Nashville, it is hard to imagine him not spitting out another great record with those blueprints.

From the single light in the darkness-approach, and the splinter of hope for better times we saw on the previous record, Isbell seem to have found humbleness and embraced contentment and appreciation of what he has. Singing about family, the earnest hard work, and the small but imperative things in life, Jason has decided to press the saturate button on this album. There are a far bolder expressions and an added playfulness to his words.

With ‘If It Takes A Lifetime’ opening the album, a humble vocal declares that hard work gets you better, and while not being at complete peace with everything you have there is a satisfaction, and with the backstory of Jason’s sobriety this speaks volume. Halfway through the album we meet ‘Children of Children’ that has an early Neil Young feel to it. The hypnotic strings and guitar solo that seem to continue forever enchants you.

In this song he reflects on his influence on his mother and the prospect of ‘what ifs’ to her life. “I was riding on my mother’s hip / she was shorter than the corn / all the years I took from her / just by being born.” The heartbreaking statement leaves you wondering how much soul-searching heartbreak has cost Jason himself, but it is where he shines the brightest. He paints atmosphere, surroundings and emotion in very few phrases with no misses, which continues through and through.

The bluesy song about the Civil War, ‘Palmetto Rose’ is where he contemplates the history of his country with conflicting attitudes but ultimately states, “I follow my own free will.” In the other end of the spectrum, there is the classic acoustic song ‘Speed Trap Town’ that tells the tale of a defect father figure and finding the means to leave a small town.  “She said, ‘It’s none of my business but it breaks my heart’/ dropped a dozen cheap roses in my shopping cart / made it out to the truck without breaking down / everybody knows you in a speed trap town.” Jason Isbell’s blueprints turned into a well-crafted 5th studio album that most of all shows personal growth from the man himself and his willingness to share those stories with no filter.

Article by Flipse Flebo

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969

Album Review: Sheppard // Bombs Away

Archive, Editors Choice, Emerging Artists, Folk, News, Pop

July 8, 2015

Originating from Brisbane, Sheppard is an Australian family business in every sense of the word. Starting out with the founding members George and Amy Sheppard who had their parents manage the band and finance their own record label. Sheppard has grown into six members including their sister Amy on bass, Jason Bovino and Michael Butler on guitars, and percussionist Dean Gordon. Their debut album Bombs Away, a title from their hit-single ‘Geronimo’, follows up on 2012’s self-titled and independently released EP, which harvested enough attention from festivals in South Africa, London and the USA.

While the album is bursting with friendly, approachable chord progression like the single ‘Geronimo’, a song that goes well for a road trip in the dirty heat of the summer, Sheppard describes themselves as indie pop. They do however dip into a few genres along the way, but it is the harmonies of George and Amy, which binds the album together nicely.

‘Let Me Down Easy’ is a laidback sing-along tune with a big choir that continues on ‘These People’ which has got the beat, the drums and the handclaps down to perfection – sometimes a little too perfect. A looser hand from producer Stuart Stuart (Analog Heart Records) would have let songs like ‘These People’ and ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ shine more, instead the laidback and positive vibe ends up feeling slightly tense and gets lost somewhere in the firm hand of the producer.

With Indie bands there are the usual expectations for them to write about the difficult twenties, bittersweet love and entangled friendships, so when you hear the pop song ‘Grade A Player’ it seems a bit off or at least unexpected. Wrapped in cotton-candy piano tunes with synth thrown into the mix, Amy sings, “Cause you’re a grade playa a fighter a hater / and I know better than to waste it all on you.”

On the closing song ‘Halfway To Hell’, you hear Amy stretch her vocal chords, and it serves her justice, just as George manages to do on ‘Find Someone’. As previous stated, George and Amy makes Sheppard stand out from other indie-pop bands. There is a far more straight-to-the-point influence in Sheppard and you can easily put the family business aspect of it to blame, unlike other due vocal bands like Of monsters And Men.

I would put Sheppard into the pop band category but with an attitude and artistry of an indie-band. The album cover of Bombs Away references the first American to go to space, Alan Shepard. The Australian family business has definitely aimed for the moon with a few misses, but as every hardworking artist knows, that is the only way to improve. Sheppard is going places.

Article by Flipse Flebo

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