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Monthly Archives: September 2012

TITLE: Profit And Loss
BAND: The Winter Olympics
LABEL: Freakscene Records
RELEASED: October 1st 2012

Indie, dance, punk are all correct descriptions of the sound of The Winter Olympics. The five-piece from London are a band who dabble in a little bit of everything and their debut album Profit and Loss is what has appeared as a result. It has spent ten years in the works, so it’s an incredibly polished album.

 

Opening and closing the record with great festival tracks Regional Showcase and Heavy Metal Ending are both awesome choices. We get both an early and lasting impression that these guys are capable of massive things in the future. The first track is the perfect addition to a party playlist and has a great pop beat behind the indie vocals. Indeed, the album comes full circle and the same could be said for the final track, where the guitars are showcased to the max.

 

As well as an upbeat outlook, the album is full of nostalgia. I Prefer The Early Stuff, I Miss The Nineties and A Prize Every Time all have wistfulness in the lyrics, as they look back to a happier, simpler time. In contrast, They Launched A Probe has a strong spacey, futuristic theme with The Killers-esque vocals melting over an alternative/electronica backing. Eerie backing vocals add the weirdness to it and as the title suggests, aliens are clearly at work!

The Winter Olympics aren’t stingy with the synth either. Latest single Fags And Girls is a hipster anthem with the keyboards making a spot-on appearance on a track which is clearly about reluctance to let go of a lover. Comparing a girl to a cigarette might not be the most flattering likeness but talk of addiction, hunger and as hot as a flame save it. Synth is most prominent on the carefree, holiday song Feeling European. Here, the vocals lapse into early Kaiser Chiefs and the album becomes an electronica/dance instrumental.

Having been described as dance/punk/rock ‘n’ roll, the band certainly cover all areas. From the psychotic, stalker ditty This Is The Fourth Time (I Have Been In Your House) to the funky merging of rock and dance in Attention All Departments, a wide range of genres and scenarios crop up in this masterpiece. Quirky, strange but with some incredibly catchy tracks, Profit And Loss is a pretty awesome first effort. Of course, after all that time, you’d expect nothing less!

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TITLE: Surface Festival London, The Final
BANDS: Dutch Cousin, A41, Jam With RoBina, Jungle Doctors, Whitespace, Semitt Falls, Escape Artist, The BeauBowBelles, Jasper in the Company of Others, We Could Be Astronauts, White Collar Boxing, Forerunner, The Onironauts, Black Velvet, Audio Razor, Credit Crunch, Ever The Optimist, Jerome and the Soulnotes, All She Knows, Syren City, Crows, Tussk, Lee Willz and Trademark, D.Donnier and his Bones, Except For Access, Black Islands, The Concept, Dorey the Wise
VENUE: Indig02, London
DATE: September 29th 2012

To be invited to the climax of an event I’ve been following since April was possibly the biggest excitement in my life this year. Of course, as I said in my review of the Regional Showcase, Playground didn’t make it to the final and in a way I was glad that I’d be able to write an open and honest review with no bias at all. Having seen seven of the acts already from the Southern showcase, I knew what to expect from them. However, I was now dealing with another host of acts from the North, Midlands, West country, Scotland, Wales and of course, Spain where Surface Festival is also a massive event for new music.

To say that the day was full of talent is certainly an understatement and with such a diverse line-up, the judges had their work cut out, in order to select the winner of a mass of prizes including guitar strings, drumsticks, photo shoots, recording sessions, tour dates and festival slots and marketing and distribution of a single, as well as other stuff that would ensure a decent start to a music career. With 28 bands to get through, I felt it only right that I take it one step at a time.

Pop rock is a pretty broad term but there were a few bands that it best describes. Show-openers Dutch Cousin from Birmingham were one of them. Female fronted with atmospheric vocals, their tracks had a slight Caribbean slant and set the bar for the rest of the show. West country kids White Collar Boxing (pictured left) began as an edgier One Direction and ended as a band who are certainly unpolished but who have bags of creativity. Their closing stunt of the whole band drumming at the front of the stage made an impact on the entire room and that’s something that big rock stars have to be able to do.

 

 

 

 

Barcelona band Crows played melodic tones mixed with metallic guitars and classic Latino passion saw them sail through their pop rock set. Forerunner were another pop rock band, who completely wowed me. With insane guitar solos and plenty of synth-fuelled energy, they were one act who made me stop typing. Mesmerized by their creative and atmospheric makeshift plastic drums and Muse-esque vocals, they gave a very strong performance. Towards the end, the guitarist seemed overcome with passion as he laid the guitar flat on the stage and strummed fiercely, (as seen in the picture right).

Indie music is fast becoming an incredibly over-saturated market and stylish teens everywhere are trying their hardest to create some themselves. The first indie act of the night were Jungle Doctors from Teddington, who you have to be a certain kind of cool to get. Fresh-faced and very trendy, these boys play Kooks-esque rock with a relaxed Californian vibe. They were followed by Whitespace, an Oxford trio who also gave us an indie treat with a Brit-rock twist. Plenty of support from the crowd saw them perform their pop-punk vocals and upbeat catchy choruses perfectly and they left the stage knowing they’d done a good job.

Indie and pop-punk also made appearances in the performance of Except For Access, who churned out some catchy choruses and a slight Bon Jovi slant. Like a few other bands in the competition, they have the potential to rock a festival crowd, which is something that not many big stars are able to do. Rounding off the indie fusion were Black Islands all the way from Barcelona with vocals to rival Brandon Flowers and an all-round convincing American sound. With suspense-filled drums and soulful guitar solos, they showed London how they do classic indie in Spain.

Alternative band were in their element at Surface and in turn, there were plenty of them. Kicking off the trend were A41 (pictured left) from Ellesmere Port, who cleverly stated that they share their name with the road that runs from Merseyside to London and how honoured they were to have travelled it today. A dramatic opening with air raid sirens and gradual entrances from the band members gave us a bit more of a visual show than some other performers and the expectations were high from then on. With catchy songs and an awesome rock ballad in Sons & Daughters before taking a bow meant that A41 were one of my early favourites.

Northerners Escape Artist continued the alternative thread with Brit-pop vocals and stadium filling potential, as did Jasper in the Company of Others, who added a folk twist and as a result achieved a laid-back style (complete with a barefoot bassist!). They were followed by We Could Be Astronauts, whose frontman arrived in flares and waistcoat with massive hair. With bags of passion and energy, the York band emanated an Aerosmith sound, which resulted in quite a theatrical performance.

Talking of theatre, The Onironauts were also a delight. Claiming to be from the Moon and occasionally lapsing into a bizarre moon dialect, these four Europeans came with their own painted stage decorations and an astronaut with bubble machines. Of course, despite the gimmicks, their mix of jazz/folk/rock and drum n bass went down a treat.

Alternative bands kept coming in the form of Ever The Optimist, who ended with an impressive cover of Alex Clare’s Too Close and Seville band Credit Crunch whose frontwoman proved to be a vocal powerhouse. Glaswegians Black Velvet and All She Knows both put on great shows. The former were packed full of guitar instrumentals and passionate delivery while the latter championed the keytar and encouraged the audience to join them. Penultimate band The Concept also played some emotional, atmospheric rock to singing guitars and catchy melodies.

Amping things up a notch were metalheads Semitt Falls, Syren City and Tussk, who all went for the screams and growls. Stockport’s Semitt Falls mixed it up a bit by combining rap with metal, making for an interesting eclectic sound. Syren City brought their A7X sounding metal from Bristol along with fast guitars and Tussk made full use of the stage space, while providing complex and impressive riffs. Metal was a little thin on the ground but all three of them played incredibly well. Of course, this was the final and no one was going to be terrible.

Adding something a little different into the mix were Jam With RoBina, the only Welsh band in the competition. Their acoustic folk-rock and friendly attitude lent them a sunny vibe that carried them through their upbeat performance. Keeping up the quirky were The BeauBowBelles (pictured right), who I’d seen in the semi final and regional. They performed their classical/jazz hits (also adding a bit of country to the set) to an audience who were thoroughly entertained by their expert storytelling.

Folk met trance with Devon band Audio Razor, who merged Caribbean flavours à la Jason Mraz with Faithless hooks. Upping the weird factor were D.Donnier and his Bones (pictured left) from Seville, who gave us an incredibly camp, flamboyant show. After tossing personalised condoms into the crowd (yes really), the band launched into funky riffs accompanied by the traditional Spanish maracas.

Tension built at the end of the night as the results were being counted.  Eventually, it was announced that in third place came Londoners Jerome and the Soulnotes, who gave us not just a set but a whole show. Complete with dancers, who I’m not sure were necessary but it was an entire production with Jerome’s soul leading the way. His voice is a modern version of that of the Motown legends and it’s backed by a sax and synth, giving it a myriad of flavours. Worthy third place!

Second prize went to indie band Dorey the Wise from Hastings. Their sunny tracks are all real crowd-pleasers and their cheerful disposition is so infectious. Catchy tracks such as True True (or Choo Choo) simply light up the arena and although they are an indie band, they’ve got a lot more pop to their sound than most indie bands and it’s awesome that they were credited for their originality.

So much suspense was created before the winner was announced and when it was revealed to be rappers Lee Willz and Trademark, the cannons fired out confetti and the bewildered, speechless winners ran onto the stage. They gave a high-energy and polished performance with a mixture of slow hip hop and reggae-infused urban tracks, all backed by a rock band. There’s no denying that they tick all the boxes for diversity and originality and I can only assume that’s what won it for them.

TITLE: Jaguar Skills and his Amazing Friends
ARTISTS: Jaguar Skills, Calvertron, Doorly, DJ@War, Murkage
LABEL: Ministry Of Sound Recordings
RELEASED: August 27th 2012

Ready for a monster of a record that touches on almost everything? Elusive British DJ Jaguar Skills’ new compilation is a massive merging of drum n bass, dubstep, house, jungle, reggae and more. It’s been a hell of a year for Jag, who submitted a mixtape to fashion label Maharishi and was subsequently hired for Jade Jagger’s Jezebel parties. Since then, he has enjoyed slots at Bestival, V Festival, Lovebox and Reading and Leeds to name but a few.

A master at mash-ups, his mixtape 1979-2006: A Hip Hop Odyssey where he mixed every hip hop hit between those years, shot him into the limelight. The album was an important part in Radio 1’s hip hop celebrations and it saw over a million downloads in a month. The new album sees him recruit some friends onto his rollercoaster journey, in order to create something quite special.

Disc 1 explores Jag’s talent and includes his mixes of tracks by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Hadouken!, Example and Wiley. Around every corner there is something different whether it be the glitches of drumstep, the thumps of house or the stutters of garage, each mix is cleverly crafted to reflect the diversity of the record. DJ Muggs’ track Snap Ya Neck Back, which features Dizzee Rascal and Bambu mixed with 601’s Rage is definitely a highlight with its metallic drill backing and energetic delivery, as is Hype! Hype! by SLK and Pixel Fist’s Skanka which is a great club anthem.

Disc 2 features four of Jag’s favourite DJ friends and indeed, these are some of the best that the UK has to offer. With a cassette tape change and Moog separating them, it’s a really well structured CD. Kicking things off is Calvertron who launches into an electronic dream with plenty of synth explosions and melodic tones, which jump over fierce dubstep growls and classic chilled house sections. Calvertron is a DJ who will definitely spice up any club party but not the best to actually sit and listen to. It’s not music you can just sink into, as it’s pretty heavy on the machine gun-esque electronica. Swiftly moving onto Doorly, who offers a more chilled UK funky approach to things. Looking back to 90s garage, it takes on a mellow form, which includes more than a few metallic spurts but the addition of Laura McLure’s vocals on Close Enough means that the set is perfect for kicking back to.

The entrance of DJ@War sees the album move into metal, meaning the album has pretty much covered everything. A church organ drifts into a synth oscillator and the section becomes the perfect balance between the screams of heavy metal, urban licks and the playful lights and sounds of an arcade. Giving it an edge that it had previously lacked really makes the album feel more complete. Locking up is Murkage, who brings us a slower rap and minimalistic beats. With a lot of lyrics, it’s clear that he favours words over sounds and it creates a hollow resonance. Robotic vocals come in towards the end and the sparse emptiness is quite spacey and futuristic, full of mystery.

Although ultimately it’s not my normal taste, it’s a high energy rollercoaster ride through the various soundscapes of UK bass music. Whatever your musical preferences are, there will be a point guaranteed to get your head bopping. He’s not one of the most in-demand DJs in the country for nothing -Jaguar Skills has perfected his skills at bringing everyone something they’ll love. On that note, I’ll leave you with the minimix… enjoy!

You can also read this review at http://www.ReviewedOnline.co.uk

Just a quick one today, as work is piling up and I have a whole host of music to get through and get out to you guys.

In my job, I get to sift through a lot of blogs and stare at Twitter feeds and today I came across this one. For any unsigned bands out there, who are trying their hardest to make it big, this article by San Francisco music educator Robin Yukiko should make for awesome reading.

Put down your guitar for a minute and take a look!

http://musicclout.com/contents/article-133-8-tell-tale-signs-you-should-keep-your-day-job.aspx

Fancy a bit of indie mixed with the attitude of pop-punk? Check out Canadian band Low Level Flight. A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be followed by these lovely lads, who subsequently sent me a link to their latest video Tsk Tsk, which has a riff that gets right into your head!

Formed way back in 2006, the band have released two albums Urgency and Through These Walls, which chart their transition from Muse-inspired atmospheric rock to the edgy metallic indie they now play. Scoring a number one on MTV with their first video and going on to achieve big success in the States and India, Low Level Flight are now ready to bring their tracks to the UK. Wow, are we ready for them!

So with all that success, you’d think that we’d have heard of them by now but Low Level Flight are a band who take it easy and are simply having fun. With a carefree sound and some awesome beats, everything is pretty chilled and relaxed. The five-piece all bring something fresh and individual to the band, meaning that they’re a pretty polished group. No gimmicks or silly hair here, they’re a serious talent with bags of mega-hit potential. Adamant that they’re not out to please anyone, it’s exciting to see a group of guys doing what they love in the way they want to do it.

Of course, with six years worth of experience behind them, they’re bound to know by now what works and what doesn’t, so expect nothing short of rocking perfection.

Look the band up at http://www.lowlevelflight.com/ , https://www.facebook.com/lowlevelflight
and https://twitter.com/LOWLEVELFLIGHT1

TITLE: The 2nd Law
BAND: Muse
LABEL: Warner
RELEASED: September 28th 2012

Tonight, The Guardian released a preview of the new Muse album for those lucky enough to know about it. It’s out on Friday and from the singles that have already been released, Survival and Madness, you’d think the band have entered a phase of dubstep mixed with Queen-esque licks. To be honest, that’s not a million miles from the truth. With influences ranging from Skrillex to Led Zeppelin, this is one album that no one will be able to pin to any genre.

Having reviewed both the singles from the album, I wasn’t going in completely blind. However, there are a few surprises to say the least. The album is named after the second law of thermodynamics, which states that differences in temperature, pressure and chemical potential eventually equilibrate, causing the physical system containing them to dissolve. All sounds pretty complicated but the album definitely has a sense of doom with a countdown to an end. With a couple of sci-fi songs and even a dash of metal, it’s certainly a mixed bag that isn’t a definite hit with the fans. It is pretty powerful though and is guaranteed to leave you in awe by the end.

A lot of that is down to the closing tracks, dubstep smashes Unsustainable and Isolation System. With robotic vocals, computerised chaos and an apocalyptic outro, these tracks give the album a flourish and you’re left wondering if the world is really ending. Unsustainable is a metallic superhero of a track and is bursting with metallic energy and suspense while Isolation System has snippets of news bulletins from around the world, creating a dangerous, urgent atmosphere despite the calming chimes and air of mystery.

The spacey theme continues in Explorers and Animals, which both have a lost melancholy to them. The former’s slow piano support and pop ballad elements make it my favourite track on the album. It has got a great story attached to it about feeling alone in a strange place, which is something everyone has experienced. Animals has a mellow guitar and plenty of atmosphere that provokes your curiosity.

Muse have long been compared to Queen and it has never been more clear than on Panic Station. With the 80s psychadelic sound and a riff that is suspiciously similar to Another One Bites The Dust, they’ve never been closer to their fellow British rock legends. Opening track Supremacy is certainly a show-opener and is packed full of drama and slamming drums. The classical fusions give it a Phantom of the Opera slant and Matt’s vocals haunt the entire track, which explodes in a crescendo of guitars.

The album isn’t short of electronica either and it’s best seen on indie track Big Freeze and classic Muse number Follow Me, which features Matt’s son Bingham’s heartbeat keeping the rhythm. Both of these tracks are club hits and they’re ready-made live tracks to add to their already impressive set.

It’s not simply an album focused on doing things differently and creating big anthems though. There is a lot of deep subject matter too, as seen on Save Me and Liquid State, self-penned by bassist Christopher Wolstenholme about his alcoholism. Indeed, they’re two very different takes on the issue with Save Me being an atmospheric song of despair, which mirrors falling into a bottomless pit and metal track Liquid State confronting his demons head on. He takes over the lead vocals too and the emotion is red raw and incredibly powerful. Much heavier than a typical Muse song, Liquid State is really quite edgy and it has got a lot of grit, reflecting Chris’ determination.

If you’re into psychadelic-rock and sci-fi inspired dubstep, every track will be your cup of tea. Muse are experts at re-inventing themselves and for their sixth album, they’ve done it again and it would appear that they’ll only keep evolving.

Take a listen yourself at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/sep/24/muse-2nd-law-album-stream