Monthly Archives: November 2013

Reading four-piece Mellor refer to their sound as “pop-smack”, which suggests to me that it’s pop with a bit of aggressive energy thrown into it. Indeed, it is an accurate description of them. They also have a little bit of indie and a little bit of funk to them but they are ultimately, feel-good pop. Since their beginnings, they’ve shared stages with The Milk and KT Tunstall and released their debut EP One Of The Faces this year. Never Saw Her Leave is an upbeat guitar with a catchy bass and some dirty vocals over the top set to a retro theme. Short and sweet, you’ll certainly be wanting more from them too!


weatherbirdTITLE: Johnny Strange
BAND: Weatherbird
LABEL: End Of The Trail Records
RELEASED: October 28th 2013

I guess it has always been popular for ambitious, creative teenagers to join together and form rock bands. Of course, the vast majority of them give up after a couple of years without much success but Weatherbird are four eighteen-year-olds whose debut single I Might Be More Than You Know reached number one on the Amazon Hot New Release chart and they’ve just completed a full UK tour.

The Telford quartet have hints of Nirvana, Funeral For A Friend and The Cribs due to their fierce punch and catchy hooks, which really resonate with you thanks to their genius songwriting. With comments such as “powerful, driving, impassioned” from Louder Than War and “Johnny Strange is one of the best songs you’ll hear this year” from Alternative Escape, Weatherbird are well on their way to matching their debut’s success with follow-up single Johnny Strange, which features on their debut EP Cut Me Loose.

weatherbird2Beginning with a rippling guitar which quickly changes to a melodic ringing riff teamed with a strong drum and throbbing bass. A gravelly lead vocal is reminiscent of some rock legends including Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl with a more youthful tinge to the licks. Slamming instruments play behind the voice and resonating backing vocals, creating a wonderful alternative fusion in your ears.

It breaks down into a calming, haunting section in the second half where just a lonely guitar sounds over a ghostly vocal murmuring “stranger”. Picking up for the finale, Johnny Strange is a wonderfully catchy track that will leave you in disbelief that Weatherbird are just a bunch of energetic, talented teens.

You cannot deny that their song-writing is first class and with such a distinctive sound that matches up to some established alternative acts, you can be sure to hear a lot more from Weatherbird. Have a watch of the weird and whimsical video below.

blackcirclessafemodeTITLE: Safe Mode
BAND: Black Circles
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: October 12th 2013

Black Circles have featured on the blog a few times before and a while ago, they sent me a link to their latest EP Safe Mode. I have only just got around to listening to it properly and can safely say that it is another catchy alternative triumph for the Kent band.

Singles from this EP including Final Straw, Playing Games and Escape have already sent their online following through the stratosphere and earned them praise from DJ Tom Robinson. With often hilarious videos, Black Circles are certainly a band who do more than play instruments and sing run-of-the-mill alternative rock. One of the things I love most about them is not their Queens Of The Stone Age-esque sound or catchy choruses but the fact that their character really shines through in each and every song. There aren’t too many bands you can say that about but Black Circles really are one.

blackcirclesSafe Mode begins with Final Straw, which had already received lots of online compliments and airplay on BBC 6 Introducing and Total Rock Radio. It starts with a dark bouncing riff which is joined by Dan’s alternative vocal, backed up by bassist Mayumi’s ethereal voice. A strong dark drum runs along the back of the catchy melody and it’s quirky sing-a-long chorus. As with many Black Circles songs, it has the air of a great live track.

Moving on to Do Or Die, we get a metallic flavour in the drums accompanied by fuzzy riffs. A solid marching rhythm characterises this inspiring and motivating track. Throughout the second verse, a riff appears to brew before exploding by the time to chorus comes around again, which is a lovely little extra. Talking of the chorus, it has a great hook that we should all take away from the EP in “It’s now or never, do or die”.

In the middle is Playing Games, which I reviewed as a single back in May along with its kooky animated video. There is an air of pop-punk to it with plenty of tricksy guitar work at play. Due to its catchy chorus and subject matter, it’s a very commercial song and has all the ingredients for a slamming alternative track.

Perhaps the most pop-punk that Black Circles get is on Hey You. Tapping drums and a deep whining guitar give way to Dan’s vocal which seems to have taken a definite pop-rock turn. Adopting a more nasal tone and coupling it with tinny guitars and upbeat melody, it has an authentic American energy to it. Again, it’s a great live track with a chorus that you’ll be humming forever.

Closing on Escape, the video of which earned them all of those followers. A flickering dark guitar and steady drum joins a melodic vocal with a definite angst behind it. To keep it interesting, they’ve teamed a funky bass with growling guitars, creating a real monster of an instrumental which lapses into the slamming introduction again at the end.

Safe Mode is a great alternative EP and you should be prepared to discover plenty of earworms. With three of the five songs already receiving great online reviews in their own right, it was always going to be a winner. Black Circles work incredibly hard as a duo and it’s only right that their signature alternative pop-rock sound is appreciated by all who hear it.

section60epTITLE: Welcome To The Dream Factory
BAND: Section 60
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: May 3rd 2013

Sheffield “guitar” band Section 60 are a five-piece who have already racked up a few credentials. Their album Is This Our Day In The Sunshine gained them enough fans to get them on stage with the likes of Reverend and the Makers and The Courteeners. Their latest EP Welcome To The Dream Factory was released this summer and it’s a great mixture of big rock songs, quieter calming acoustic tracks and kooky indie.

The EP begins with Gunslingers, which starts with a deep bassline and a falling casual riff. A distinctive vocal and indie instrumentals comprising of resonating riffs complete with a catchy melodic chorus. A real fierce instrumental is just before the final push which escalates into a great live track. Another heavier track is The North Will Rise, which has a flickering wah sound that kicks it off and continues to make appearances. Atmospheric guitar and a funky beat sit behind a militant vibe and raw rock vocal.

section60Channelling Brit pop in Dream Factory, Section 60 begin to sound a little bit 90s. A kooky indie whining riff joins a soft rolling drum which creates an upbeat rhythm. The pop essence is definitely there and the catchy repetitive riff makes it great driving music. There is a real power charging through it that make it a memorable title track.

Taking things down a gear, Stop The World has a slow soft acoustic opening. It sways gently and provides a calming atmosphere. A melancholy vocal decorates the pretty ballad with its commercial pop sound. It’s the first glimpse of a country influence and it’s seen again on The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You. A trudging drum laced with twinkles and soft slow strums meet up with a folksy vibe and melodic vocal. Both tracks are simple with catchy hooks with The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You having a series of alternative guitar tricks at its end.

Closing on A Way With Words, the EP ends on a retro note. Fuzzy guitars and metallic spurts make up this melodic pop-rock song. A very catchy rhythm and tune along with atmospheric echoes cause it to stay with you as the record comes to an end.

Section 60 are edgy, talented and have a raw quality down to a tee. One thing that really sets them apart is their distinctive voice and their ability to show both light and dark on the same EP. I prefer them stripped back and acoustic but their heavier material suggests they would be a great live alternative act too.


guechevaraepTITLE: Boys Kissing Boys Kissing Boys
BAND: Gue Chevara
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: August 20th 2013

Never before have I heard punk done like this. Incorporating all the anarchy and fierceness of punk and then putting a glamorous camp twist on it and labelling it “fashion punk” is not something I’ve come across before. The result is something that is very unique and pretty tongue-in-cheek.

Inverting the Cuban revolutionary’s name, Gue Chevara are calling for a gay revolution and are doing so through wonderful, sexual punk. The Michigan trio’s debut EP dropped this summer and it’s full of short but sweet tracks which all have a strong metallic theme with obligatory camp elements.

It begins with Three with its funky bassline and electro-punk riffs. Frantic hysterical shouts and camp punk vocals alternate the singing and the repetitive riff is an earworm but only until the next catchy guitar. Moving on to Fresh Paint, the vocals up the theatre and the unpolished twangs complement the quirky angsty delivery. Simple deep riffs play it out and into the shortest track Humbucker Nightmare. With bounces and screams, it’s a hectic 34 seconds which in that time also manages to squeeze in a whispery vocal, jumping guitar and a strong drum.

Paisley Curse features a staccato instrumental made up of metallic drums and fuzzy guitars. The theatrical punk vocal is there again and depicts a very over-the-top character, which comes through in the delivery. Banging drums and frantic riffs are very traditional punk and the evil laugh at the end just adds something else. Your Mom is another fuzzy dirty track with the retro punk style nailed. It’s very raw and even a bit whiney, which brings it down a bit. It’s very simple and repetitive, so it’s actually a relief that it isn’t longer. Ending on Sheriff Feely, which is clearly about a sexual encounter with an over-eager sheriff. Funky bouncing electronics and metallic riffs join the traditional angsty vocal which at times as a quirky electronic tone. It does have a catchy chorus which is great for such a short-lived track. Angsty screams finish it off and you’re left with the feeling that you’ve been taken on a journey through some dingey back-streets.

It’s definitely something very different to the punk records I’ve heard before. It certainly isn’t for everyone due to its melodramatic nature but it will no doubt make most people smile. Listen to it if you’re after something a bit light-hearted with a tough exterior.

A very personal one this week. I remember when I began AskAlex, I held off from answering a personal question. However, as this feature has evolved I feel more comfortable in revealing a little bit more about my deeper self. So today is going to be fairly tough, not too happy and if you’re uncomfortable reading it, then stop!

If you’ve ever had a mental breakdown, what was it like and what happened?

It’s pretty difficult for me to describe. Indeed, this is a very recent thing and in fact, I feel like I am still going through it. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel fully recovered because it certainly has changed me. The best way I can describe it is an all-consuming black cloud that mists up your mind and blocks any rational, real thoughts and feelings, which strikes whenever and however aggressively it wants.

Before I arrived back from uni, I was a pretty chilled and happy girl. Indeed, before uni and during uni, on the whole I was laid-back and loving my life. However, after graduating I fell on hard times. Suddenly I had no money, I was living under my parents’ roof and rules and I felt so trapped and useless. Low self-esteem is something I’ve always suffered from and I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. Yes, I have a wonderful boyfriend who tells me how beautiful I am daily but through years of not having those words said to me, it’s difficult to build that confident self-image up.

Anxiety is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. It’s like a little demon that sits in my head and whispers negative thoughts about almost everything that life throws at me. No matter how hard I try to suppress it and calm it down, the next day it will be back again stronger than before. I know it’s common for anxiety to lead to depression and it’s so easy to see why. I’ll be pretty open about the fact that I often cry when on my own about ridiculous things and I’ll have a period of a few days sometimes when I simply can’t concentrate on anything but my own miserable, dark thoughts.

I won’t lie -it sometimes makes me think of death and I feel like life is simply too hard for me to go through but I just have to remember that things will eventually get better. I know how irritating that phrase is to someone with anxiety but I’m pretty sure I’d be dead by now if I didn’t keep it in my head. It is tough, of course it is, but I refuse to let it beat me.

dotdashhalfremembereddreamTITLE: Half-Remembered Dream
BAND: DotDash
LABEL: The Beautiful Music
RELEASED: August 16th 2013

Washington post pop-punk band DotDash recently got in touch with me regarding their recent EP. I love a chilled sunny album because on a cold winter night, it’s all that is needed. DotDash are a trio of former rock band members who have united their talents and produced a series of albums since 2010.

Half-Remembered Dream follows Winter Garden Light in 2012 and spark>flame>ember>ash in 2011. Released via independent label The Beautiful Music, Half-Remembered Dream is an Americana rock record with sprinkles of indie and punk. It’s a great way to wind down after a day at work.

dotdashBeginning with (Here’s To) The Ghosts Of The Past with its strong drums and rattling metallic riffs, the album gets off to an indie start. DotDash are great at catchy rhythms and beats and these feature on most of the tracks. Hands Of Time, 11th Hour, Fiction Section and The Sound In Shells all have catchy choruses and stay in your head for a while after.

The summery guitar is also present on Hands Of Time, Broken Halo, Bloom/Decay, Shopworn Excuse and The Sound In Shells. Along with Terry Banks’ distinctive indie vocal, it has an Americana feel to it which is headed up by the sunny twangs of the guitar. In fact, there isn’t all that much punk on this album. The strongest taste of it is on A Light In The Distance, which has loud drums, mechanical riffs and frantic, aggressive vocals powering through it.

There is a darker side to DotDash on Do Re Mi with a dark bass and strong tribal drum. Rippling riffs precede a pop-punk explosion. A simple head-bopping song with chilled retro riffs makes it the perfect pop rock song to relax to. Shopworn Excuse has a dreary vocal teamed with a summer riff, which makes it a great balance between light and dark.

Finale track The Sound In Shells has soft drums and a retro summery feel with plenty of indie fusions. A simple repetitive guitar that turns over and over with sliding riffs that frame the catchy chorus. It’s a soft, gentle end to the album lulling you to a sense of security and relaxation.

Overall, it’s a great summer album. To listen to it in November is a pick-me-up, so have it on standby for when it’s chilly outside and you want a little warmth into your day. It is a little repetitive in places but they have shown plenty of light and shade, which only really talented bands can do.