Hot Rod Hearse – There By The Road

0007122537_10Music is one of those gifts we have that can suit so many situations depending on our mood. When we need a lift, there are feel good summery pop tunes to get us moving. Sometimes it’s a case of finding some all out angry metal to shake off the bad vibes. Other times, when the melancholia sets in, that’s when we can turn to old faithful – moody, smoky blues.

Hot Rod Hearse’s ‘There By The Road’ very much falls firmly in that category, with their country tinged blues that tugs on the heartstrings while at the same time revealing a subtle sense of humour underneath the surface. This is Irish blues, baby, and it threatens to get under your skin and into your bones.

Sonically speaking, the textures found on the track create a rich tapestry, from the opening guitar with its fluttering tremolo, to the banjo notes that cut through like a hot knife through butter, and all tied up with a bow by “Hotrod Suzi”s smoking harmonies.

Heartwarming, with a homegrown feel, ‘There By The Road’ manages to balance light with dark, with its grubby, swirling organs and shimmering guitars. Particularly recommended for adding some extra spice into your next playlist.

Daniell Nelson – Tomorrow

daniellnelson2Daniell Nelson is back with his latest track, ‘Tomorrow’. It’s a dark, brooding piece of hip-hop, with a bouncy bass part that adds to the dark tone that runs through the track to create its own unique heartbeat. Heartbeat here being the operative word, because the song does indeed feel very much like a whole body made up of organs, flesh and blood. There’s an earthiness to ‘Tomorrow’ that ends up feeling so very visceral, and adds to the sense of humanity that holds it all together. This all works for the good of the song, as it is filled with that ongoing issue for every human heart – the hope for a better tomorrow, the constant longing that the next day will be a good one.

Nelson’s vocal is an intriguing blend of hopefulness and yearning, with less of the bravado and posturing that is so often found within the genre. Instead, there is the sense of being self assured, confident in his delivery, and by the time the track has begun to reach its conclusion, Nelson’s flow suddenly picks up pace and becomes a little more exhilarating.

On the one hand, ‘Tomorrow’ is laid back, cool, calm, and collected – and yet what lies beneath the surface is a curious sense of foreboding. All it all this is what makes the track galvanise into a moment of tension infused with hope.

Maximum High – EP

Greece based Maximum High’s new EP arrives filled with high energy riffs and self-assured all out rock and roll. Kicking off with ‘Long Ago’, the opening guitar tone has shades of The Hives, but it’s when Irene Dimopoulou’s distinctive vocal kicks in that it becomes apparent that there’s something a bit special here. Her voice has a great tone that manages to take on a variety of styles that mashes together and indie rock sound with a soulful, bluesy twist.

mh_website-500x326‘Don’t Let Me Down’ features some breathtaking guitar riffs, laying down a foundation for the track’s gritty vibe. As the song unfolds, there are all kinds of reference points, with nods towards the groove of Queens Of The Stone Age and the sass of Blondie. Alternatively, ‘Control My Love’ uses a tremolo drenched guitar that would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film. It’s a fascinating track that draws the listener in, inviting them to pay close attention to all the different elements that can be found by digging a little deeper.

And so, it is concluding track ‘Stay’ that leaps up and announces: this is what Maximum High sounds like. The roaring bass rumbles underneath, the guitars splutter and squeal, and those thrilling female vocals dance atop it all to create an alt.rock anthem that ends up being utterly irresistible.

 

Ya Yah Townsend – Sugar High

Ya Yah Townsend’s second release on Denn Spin Records is exactly the kind of laid back R&B you’re going to want to put on when it’s time to wind down. The groove is utterly relaxed, offering the listener the chance to sit back and let all the worries of the year gone by to melt away. It’s like a kind of respite – when we know that our troubles aren’t likely to be fixed just by listening a song, at the very least it does give the chance to take some welcome distraction.

artworks-000192405885-r16p3y-t500x500Townsend’s voice shifts from silky smooth to sassy with a touch of grit, her vocal texture blending with the song’s instrumentation which creates a kind of dance, like watching drops of coloured ink falling into clear water where it shimmers and creates beautiful patterns. In many ways, the song’s deceptive simplicity is what causes it to truly stand out – there is no big bold moment where everything reaches a sonic climax, but rather the song plays out much like a heartwarming conversation with an old friend, filled with kind words and time taken to talk over past memories. As the year draws to a close, ‘Sugar High’ is a chilled out tune to add to the end of your playlist for a moment of calm and beauty.

Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band – Our Savior Has Come

And so, it is Christmas. As such, it’s that time of year when many bands are getting their festive albums out for the general consumption of the rest of us who are all looking for some new yuletide tunes. Let’s admit it, we all go to the same old classics – some loved, some loathed – but new interpretations of classic carols are always welcome. In terms of the gospel heavyweights, the last few years have offered us some pretty outstanding work – just take a look at Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche and Phil Wickham, and you’ll immediately be treated to some incredible reworkings of all the old favourites.

drb_bw_002_creamtoneAnd so, it is Adam Layne Fisher and the Downtown Revival Band who now offer us “Our Savior Has Come” – a “Christmas rock experience” – with its bold opening “Rex Veni”, presenting a vast soundscape of power chords and synth soundscapes. From the start, there is a huge sense of expectation, surely the whole point of Christmas? This leads straight into a massive stadium rock version of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’. The punk guitars are there. The indie chugs are there. The confident vocals backed up with the right harmonies are there. There’s even a hint of that now forgotten Christmas rock anthem from The Darkness, “Don’t Let The Bells End” when the lead guitar kicks in.

It’s a perfect lead in to “Angels We Have Heard On High”, which pulls back the power pop to let a more choral tone break through, with the bells chiming out to crate a massively festive feel.

Once you’ve really settled in to the album, you start to get a real feel for the immense power that resides in its production – where other contemporary worship heavyweights have either played it safe or used the album as a ruse to put out a few of their own new recordings, Adam Layne Fisher has managed to stay true to both the purity of the carols and also to his own sound and style. Admittedly it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste – if you’re looking for traditional Christmas carols, “Away In A Manger” will probably infuriate you. But for many others, it will be a huge breath of fresh air, with its different take on the melody and tempo.

It might come as a surprise to find “O Come All Ye Faithful” at the middle of the album – I certainly tend to prefer it as a big crowd pleasing moment at the end of any carol service, but here it works as a suitable mid point to pause and remember what Christmas is all about. And so, the final closing track ends up being even more ideal, with the glorious “Peace On Earth”. From a sentimental position, its the perfect conclusion for a Christmas album released at the end of a year that so many will chalk up as a bad one. The chords ring out with the chiming bells and offer to lift the spirits of any heavy heart. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Christine Saadé – Get Together (Ft. Twisted Dee)

Hey, have you heard Christine Saadé’s ‘Get Together’? As the winter nights continue to draw in, this is exactly the kind of  high energy dance music to get you moving around and getting the glow sticks out. Like so much dance music, it’s much less about narrative structure or telling a story, and so much more about conveying a feeling, or painting a picture of an experience.

artworks-000193724537-1hujqi-t500x500The insistent bass thumps throughout the track like a relentless heartbeat that keeps the music alive, leading eventually to the classic high point where the music reaches fever pitch and invites the listener to lose themselves fully to the music.

There are several different remixes of ‘Get Together’, and this one in particular offers its own unique vibe. As a club anthem that has its own house elements, it’s a song that can serve multiple purposes – put it on while you’re getting ready to go out, play it loud through the car stereo while you drive through the night, or simply groove along to it on the club dancefloor.

The beat is infectious, and Saadé’s vocal comes out on top having been given the remix treatment – the perfect tone that blends a sultry allure with optimistic innocence. Crank it up and groove on down.

NatStar – Anatymous

NatStar’s Anatymous is a dark and brooding arrival, which comes at the right time – if 2016 ever needed wrapping up with some growling hip-hop stylings, it’s all served up right here.

f4bba352709cdf0fed9477427f3532f8Opening with the album’s title track, ‘Anatymous’ floats through a variety of styles, first offering a dark tone which gives way to a more pop-influenced chunk of auto-tuned vocal which blends some R&B into the scene. ‘Roulette’ shakes things up and takes them to the next level, with guest vocals from Enessa, it’s a hyper-real tune that flashes and sparkles like a neon vision of the future. There are some real moments of hope and joy to be found along the way, too – ‘2Kold’ has a hectic craziness to it that has an infectious euphoria, with a vocal that flutters over the track with a distinctive style. Other tracks, like ‘Dagga’, offer a more laid back feel, slightly slumped back and chilled out, with a more delicate snare that keeps the rhythm in place without hurrying things along too fast.

NatStar’s rhymes remain tight throughout the record, with a flow that gives a strong consistency and gives a coherence from beginning to end, giving the listener a true sonic journey with a real sense of narrative.

Swami Lushbeard – Blood Is Sicker Than Water

Following up on their previous 2014 single “Where The Sleep Are Led”, L.A. based rockers Swami Lushbeard are back with their latest EP, “Blood Is Sicker Than Water”.

blood_is_sicker_than_water_cd_artOpening with ‘Haunted’ there is an immediate hit of alternative rock, with a mature flavour running through the track. The swirling, phaser-laden guitars give something of a post-grunge vibe, while the gutsy vocals and accompanying harmonies add some grit and colour.

‘Twist & Shout’ offers a more eerie and introspective feel, with a wandering guitar riff and glacial piano notes that flutter in the background, before the track goes on to unfurl with its own sense of drama, telling its story and painting its picture with its rich tones.

Closing track ‘F.E.A.R.’ offers a bold and brash sound, with some old school swirling organs and spluttering guitars that come together to create a classic rock tone that is utterly pleasing and a track that urges the listener to tap their toes.

Blood Is Sicker Than Water is a carefully compiled package, with its three songs having been well crafted to show the work of a band who without a doubt have a whole lot more to offer. Turn it on, turn it up, rock out.

Jaewar – Funky Ting Dem

jaewar_8421r_3‘Funky Ting Dem’ is one of those tracks that lets you know what to expect from the title. This is a dynamic tongue-in-cheek groove that draws on a slightly reggae flavor, hip-hop and a few unusual other genres. If that’s what you expected, then you’ll soon find you’ve made it to the right place.

Amidst the typical 2-step rhythm and snapping guitar, there are hints of something else going on as well, even shades of classic rock to be found, and that’s not forgetting the element of hip-hop that pervades the track. This is the key – Jaewar’s tune brings together a reggae aesthetic and smashes it into a hip-hop sensibility that creates a dynamic fusion. Rather than sounding hackneyed or over-egged, the track has been carefully constructed in a way that continuously picks up momentum until the moment Jaewar emphatically, “bombs on your selfie!”. There are fun elements throughout to keep the listener interested, and chances are there will be that inclination to take it for another spin.

There’s a colourful video for this tune at the website for his band Vibe Riot ( www.viberiot.com )