All Along the Watchtower –  Nick Nicely (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

As regular readers will know, I’m not that much of a fan of covers of songs. The only point, for my money at least, in revisiting an already well-known song is to do something different with it, after all why bother trying to reinvent the wheel and then try to sell it to a bunch of wheel enthusiasts who are more than happy with the original wheel. Okay, not a great analogy but you get what I’m saying. This is why I don’t watch cover bands and don’t get me started on tribute acts. It’s all substandard wheels as far as the eye can see.

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Soul Doctor –  Matt Oestreicher (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

What do you do when you find that you are not practicing what you preach? This was the dilemma facing Matt Oestreicher as he spent his days mentoring kids on how to aim higher and follow their dreams whilst realising that he wasn’t pursuing his own. Although an accomplished musician and working alongside many notable and name artists he was yet to record and release his own music and it was this epiphany that led to his own album, Dream The Word New. seeing the light of day.

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Mirror Song –  Burning House (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It’s an odd combination, intensity and beauty, you feel that they should be mutually exclusive concepts but amongst the wall of shoe gazing guitar work, the driving drums, the pulsing bass lines and the half hidden vocal delivery, there is something beautiful indeed. For all its musical weight, its shimmering textures, its rawness and chaos, Mirror Song is also intimate and honest, speaking directly to the listener, half heard through the squalling sounds but still brilliantly engaging. 

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I Need You –  The Stone MG’s (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The Stone MG’s make music that sits at the point where rock muscle meets soul sass. Vocally it tips its hat to a Motown vibe and musically a bluesy, urban rock and roll and the whole package feels as if it has just stepped out of a 60’s revue show. But that is not to say that there is anything dated or unfashionable about the sound that they make as such iconic grooves have never gone out of fashion. Rather the sound is timeless and so is both wonderfully nostalgic and bang up to date at the same time.

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Sabbath –  Evi Vine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Anything that puts me in mind of All About Eve is going to be good with me. That may be a lazy way to start talking about Eve Vine’s fine new single but it does come swathed in similar psychedelic meets gothic textures, the same translucent beauty, the same sonic elegance. But whereas Julianne Reagan and the crew quickly headed out into more pastel and Pre-Raphaelite territory, Evi Vine stays closer to the swirling dark riches that AAE’s early demos marked them out for.

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Like A Cat –  Nadia Kazmi (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something wonderfully bohemian about this latest sonic blast from Brooklyn based Nadia Kazmi. It’s in the sultry delivery, the referencing of the trappings of a beautifully sleazy lifestyle, its in the psychedelic tones of the video…everything about it references a 60’s underworld, simultaneously revelling in and rejecting its languid ways. This is the soundtrack to a time that may or may have not existed, from West Coast coffee shops to Ladbroke Grove squats, maybe it is all mythology but if it did happen this song certainly channels its stoned, drunken spirit.

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The Sight of an Eagle – Through Infinity (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If you like your music to come with a heavy dose of drama and no small amount of pathos then Through Infinity are definitely going to tick a lot of boxes for you. Wandering between a sort of theatrical rock and the more intricate and exploratory end of the genre, they also blend in graceful, classical piano lines, underpin with emotive flute cascades and hints of a world music vibe and the overall affect is both big and clever.

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Taeb Ecnad – Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Say what you like about Jamit but you can’t fault the speed at which he turns out new material. It seems as if there is a new offering in the review pile every couple of weeks and who can blame him. In this short attention span world, it pays to keep your name ahead of the pack and the best way to do that is to do the work, keep your music flowing, offer new and intriguing sonic delights. It’s the shark analogy all over again, the idea that they have to keep moving all the time, well, musicians need to do the same.

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The Weather Up Here – Niki Kennedy (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

That Niki Kennedy is no stranger to musical theatre and stage productions is evident in her voice right from the start. That combination of delicacy and power, control and confidence which is a requirement for such a career means that vocally she can explore sounds that your average pop wannabe would fear to tread. It also means that whilst The Weather Up Here is unashamedly a pop record, albeit one infused with soul and jazz touches, it bristles with a maturity not often found by her would be pop peers.

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Vastness –  Christopher Sky (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Space, the final frontier. Yes, we all know the tag line from that famous sci-fi franchise, but it is a phrase which is also relevant to music. Many artists and composters, songwriters and creators are so focused on filling the void in front of them with all manner of sounds and musical substance that they often miss a trick. That trick being that silence itself, when correctly framed, can be a useful tool too. And if such artists are the equivalent of oil painters covering the whole canvas with vibrant musical colours and sonic images, then Christopher Sky is the water-colour artist using the sleekest of lines and the bare minimum washes of paint to turn the white background into the desired design.

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Timberline and Mountain Crest –  Forest Robots (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Interesting things happen when worlds collide. Sometimes the results are catastrophic and earth-shattering, sometimes they are unexpectedly compatible and beautiful. Forest Robots has always fallen into the latter category and this new album of electronic music used to describe the majesty of the natural world is no exception. Continuing where Super Moon Moonlight left off Timberline and Mountain Crest continues its mission to describe the world beyond the man-made in sweeping synth instrumentals, electro-classical grandeur and technological soundscapes.

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Confusion Species – Oxygen Thief (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I like a good pun. Who doesn’t? So even before I have dropped the virtual needle into the digital groove the titles alone of this new album suggest wit, intelligence and wordplay and suggest something about the confusion of modern life. And such things are indeed at the heart of this latest Oxygen Thief outing, whilst the sound itself is one of grating guitars, cavernous soundscapes, thundering drums and pummelling bass lines. But rather that just another slice of modern indie-punk that such a musical melting pot might suggest, within this swirling mass, this sonic juggernaut, it is the finer points, the musical intricacies, the taught and tense riffs and the deft details that puts this ahead of the pack.
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Nivuru – Alessio Bondi (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

It must be difficult selling a foreign-language album into the already saturated market of English-speaking releases, sure we all like an occasional ‘Gangnam Style’ or ‘Despasito’ to shake it up, but on the whole English-speaking music fans like English speaking bands. So, to combat this, the music has to be good. Duke Ellington once said, “there are two kinds of music, the good and the other kind”, this is true, and it’s also true that good music will always find an audience, so if you feel your record collection is lacking a Sicillian singer-songwriter who produces music that is tricky to categorise, then look no further than Alessio Bondi.

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Push The Button  – Marc Payne (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If any genre is allowed to be self-referencing and creatively recyclable then you have to give hip-hop a pass on that score. Any genre born from sampling, splicing and slicing, rewording and reworking can always be forgiven for taking classics of their own genre, in this case Salt-n-Pepa’s iconic Push It, as a core vibe for a new musical outing. But if that is what gets you through the door, it is what lies beyond it that makes the track stand out.

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Laika  –  Angus McOg (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something wonderfully Gilliam-esque about the video that accompanies Angus McOg‘s Laika, that same strange, surreal cut and paste style that used to break up the sketches of Monty Python’s Flying Circus all those years ago. But there is nothing absurd or throwaway about the music that it represents. Five years on from previous album Arnaut, Laika acts as a taste of follow up album Beginners, set for release in January next year.

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EP One –  Mat Caron (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is a wonderful and inherent bleakness to Mat’s music in general and this latest release in particular. But where as many artists seem to force such a vibe into their songs, here it seems to be a natural state of affairs. And again where many would create such a feeling by employing age old tricks and overworked cliches, this brand of gothic folk is attained more through what is left out rather than what is put in. I Think I’m Getting Used To This is built from hypnotic, minor key repetition, sparse and poignant lyricism and delicate middle distance musical details. Throw in a haunting, disembodied choir of fallen angels and you have the sound of sadness rather than despair, melancholy rather than misery. And it is his ability to stay on the right side of those lines which avoids the musical traps and obvious pitfalls.

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Fake News –  Revelever (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

For a man who admits to an equal love for the rock antics of The Who and Led Zeppelin as much as the likes of Bowie and Japan, Fake News certainly leans more heavily towards the latter sound. But we live in a world where lines have thankfully blurred, musical tribalism is out of fashion and even genres have had their day. So why can’t a rock drummer also grab a keyboard and make 80’s infused synth-pop? Nothing sounds more healthy to me. And as the man himself says, “music isn’t just entertainment: it’s an important form of expression” and sometimes you need to find different ways of saying what you feel.

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Morning  –  Dino Pitoski (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Morning seems to sit at any number of musical crossing points. But then again all of the most interesting music does. It moves from gentle acoustic balladry to a more muscular sound as the song moves from start to finish, it combines the deftness normally associated with folk playing with the sheer infectiousness of a cinematic pop single and matches underlaying classical vibes with more anthemic and rocked-up stadium sounds. That might sound like a lot to try and fit together but I guess it all comes down to clever composition, allowing one sound to sit within the breathing space of another, for textures to weave around each other and for musical lines to complement rather than contrast. 

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Can It Wait? –  Ignacio Peña (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The joy of Ignacio Peña’s music is exploring the layering and depth of the messages involved. As an audio blast, the lyrics may be open to interpretation, even having meaning beyond the idea of social commentary that sits at the heart of the album Songs For the Fall of an Empire. But encounter the music with the accompanying video and the songs leave little doubt as to the subject matter that it is being discussed. Not only are there documentary images threaded through the live band footage, there are poignant  soundbites scrolling through the proceedings, quotes and important facts to really drive the point home.

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I Think I Saw You on the Street – MARBL (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

See, this is exactly what I have been talking about for years. Folk music and indie music make the perfect match, the deft and delicate delivery of the former and the cool and polished sound of the latter make an exquisite musical hook up. But a practical on too. If folk is going to stay relevant and Indie music interesting such musical marriages are essential. But this is no clumsy marriage of convenience, I Think I Saw You on the Street is the gorgeous off-spring of two good looking generic parents – the practical and solid folk father, the gracious and the charming hipster mother.

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The High Cost of Living Strange – Ben De La Cour (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

The Southern states of America have always been reflected, and promoted, as where the honest, God-fearing folk of America live. The vast farmland for Texan beef, the arid desert land of Nevada and the communities based on industry and hard work.

Of course every story has a dark side; for every farmer there is a greedy developer, Nevada is dominated by Las Vegas and industry changes, often leaving communities isolated when the big companies move on.

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Life Is Wonderful  – Clark Twain (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If the single Fly High (Like Richard Branson) was shot through with musical references from throughout the decades and across the generic spectrum, then a full album from Clark Twain takes that idea to even greater heights. In fact it is like playing hop-scotch where each box represents a different era or sound. In some people’s hands this might seem like too much to juggle, might make for a messy or overly complex approach to music but not here.  And whilst Twain is a fan of a big sound, Life Is Wonderful reveals that there is much more to him than that and he manages to weave these various musical threads together into a seamless and enchanting design.

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Mr. Fix It  – Brooke Josephson (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If ever a song was the sound of the modern clubland dance floor it is this. It seems as much built of sass and energy as it is with music and beats and with a video comprised of Day-Glo flashes and searing visuals, it is the perfect shiney object for the current crop of high-octane music magpies. Music can be staid and serious, poignant and poetic of course but sometimes you just want something to distract you from the grind of daily life, something to loose yourself in on a Friday night as the club kicks in to life, something that is more of a soundtrack or a sonic escape than anything particularly meaningful. And for those times, Mr. Fix It is exactly what the music doctor ordered.

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Miles Away –  Mark James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Some music looks to the past, re-invents the wheel or perhaps merely polishes it in the hope that this new found sparkle will ensnare a new audience. Others follow fad and fashion, happy to piggyback on the current zeitgeist and try to slip through the doors that have been opened by other contemporary artists. And then there are artists like Mark James who are all about looking to the future. For although there is much that is familiar on his album, Miles Away, there is a definite feeling of moving everything forward, of striding confidently onto new horizons and leading rather than following the pack.

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Call of War – Millytae ft. Gwaii (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It is nice to know that in this world were a lot of rap and hip-hop has been dumbed down to mumbling bedroom wannabes talking in street tough cliches over the same off the shelf meandering beats, that occasionally you can still stumble across something which reminds you of the golden age.  Call of War has a wonderful swagger about it, like an old school hip-hop classic but is nothing if not forward looking, talking in the language of today and adding a real street edge and dark anticipation through the choice and flow of words.  It is sharp, punchy and for a change revels in its own lyricism, something which seems to have ironically been lost from the genres which arose from a cappella street poetry. Throw in Gwali’s more reggae-vibe, vocal interludes and you have the perfect combination of styles, genres and eras.

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Outsiders – The Senton Bombs (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Blackpool is famous for it’s Tower Ballroom, it’s illuminations and seaside rock, and boy do these lads from Blackpool know how to rock!

If you like your music to have prominent drums, distortion-heavy guitar, chugging bass and a singer giving it some welly, then read on, The Senton Bombs tick all those boxes. Add to that some very good songs and you’ve got a very brief idea of what expect from this band.

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Two –  John Lindsay (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There are so many classic hallmarks and cleverly nostalgic moments to be found on Two that it is hard not to think that you have not been listening to John Lindsay’s album for decades. You can’t help but think that these songs exist on a well worn vinyl pressing, call a battered card sleeve home and both alphabetically and generically have the likes of John Martyn and Van Morrison for neighbours in a well-loved music collection.

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