Sober Season’s You Fool EP offers three glorious tracks which weave in and out of various influences. From the opening title track’s first few seconds, ‘You Fool’ has an autumnal warmth to the tone of the guitar that embraces the listener and draws you in. It’s quite clear from the start that while these three tracks aren’t going to last forever, the chances are that they will manage to leave a lasting memory. Vocally, there are hints of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, while the track itself has an arrangement that allows itself to build up into a bold chorus that is as unexpected as it is thrilling. Add to that the squealing, smoky blues of the guitar solo, and you’ve got something quite special here, a track that isn’t afraid to wander from the beaten track from time to time and try something different before heading back to the main path ahead. ‘Paper Tears’ offers a more stripped back sound, with the feel of a campfire song. Upbeat, with a deep melancholy running through it, the track feels as though its power is held in the tension that creates a dynamic energy. This is strengthened all the more by the two vocals, male and female, which then engage with a call-and-response dialogue towards the track’s conclusion. The You Fool EP comes to a close with ‘Grey Day’, featuring for of the trademark Sober Season acoustic guitar tone that acts as the very blood that runs through the veins of the music, reaching far and wide and making sure to bring life to every area. In terms of tone and tune, there is the oh-so-slightest nod to ‘Here Comes The Sun’, but never actually copies or steals. Rather, the guitar feels more informed and influenced, taking the knowledge of much that has gone before and stepping out ahead to forge a new path based on confidence and experience. There’s more of that previous tension, as the music has an upbeat and positive feel, while lyrically there is a bittersweet edge to things. As a closing track, it offers some real fireworks, not least on the chorus, and works well to tie things up in a nice bow and leave the listener feeling particularly satisfied. Satisfied to a point, though, as really once the three tracks are over there is a nagging desire for some more. Admittedly one way of solving this problem is to simply give the EP another play, and what it serves to point out is how welcome a full album from Sober Season would be. This world is always slightly better for having sad, acoustic tinged alternative music that occasionally explodes into huge choruses. Highly recommended.
It’s probably fair to say that most would be filled with a sense of apprehension when faced with a fresh rap using Adele’s ubiquitous ‘Hello’. Granted, hip-hop artists have been making use of existing material as a backdrop for their own rhymes for years, and let’s take a moment to remember the remarkable use of Dido’s ‘Thank You’ on ‘Stan’, which arguably set the standard some fifteen years ago. So, when those oh-so recognisable piano notes kick in, there is an immediate sense of familiarity which sets the stage perfectly for 2G’z to deliver his freestyle flow which comes in almost immediately. This means that there’s no chance of making the mistake that it’s going to be Adele’s vocal gracing the track this time, and suddenly the expectation shifts from the anticipation of smoky soul to a more attentive anticipation where it feels as though something new and special is about to happen. As a result, the vocal delivery is sharp and punchy, filled with attitude and vitriol, and a flow that has powerful pauses that act as an emotional punctuation. At just two minutes, it’s short and (bitter)sweet, leaving the listener reeling from the personal depth unpacked from the rhymes that are delivered hard and fast.
‘Cthulhu Beckons!’ is the kind of track that will be sure to get your weekend started. With its wild wails and deep waves of synthy house beats, it grabs the attention from the start and refuses to let go until the very end. By the song’s mid point, the listener is assaulted with a barrage of insistent blares which create a hypnotic effect, before leading into a psychedelic tunnel towards a higher plan of consciousness. What really causes the song to stand out from the crowd is the way in which it uses such high energy without resorting to cliches or begging for attention. Instead, the care taken in the detail allows for the listener to either be washed away on its sonic waves, or focus their ears in more closely to pay attention to the more subtle elements that are there to be discovered. A discerning ear will find all kinds of special things going on – the way the bass plays against the beat, the rave tones that come in and out of focus, and the ebb and flow of the synth underbelly that lies beneath. While house can often be divisive, as connoisseurs often split off into their own preferred factions, this stands as a glorious celebration of all that is pure and enjoyable about acid inspired electro house music.
Twenty Two B bursts into life with new track ‘Karma Is A Bitch’. It’s funk, Jim, but not as we know it. Make no mistake, the guitars are packed with attitude, growling and screaming their catchy riffs, while that deep kick drum thunders beneath it all to keep everything locked in place. There are moments where the track’s tone seems to channel that aggressive, sexual tone that R.E.M. went for on 1994’s Monster, all glam and jumped up, full of testosterone and bravado. It’s something we don’t see so much of these days, and as a result ‘Karma Is A Bitch’ comes over as somewhat refreshing while at the same time in your face with its playful aggression. Throughout the track there are unmistakable moments that nod back to particular influences – there’s a healthy dose of Guns n Roses going on here (think ‘Welcome To The Jungle’) and that is all a big part of the bravado and masculinity that runs through it. In the end what we’re being given here is a big, bold, and blustering piece of funk rock that stands up and demands to be heard amongst all the other noise that surrounds it. It might not be breaking any boundaries, but it’s got plenty going for it to get heads bobbing and toes tapping.
Music and memories, two partners who can never be separated. Whatever we listen to, there will be those times when moments from the near or distant past will come back to us. The tone that runs through Tom Greer’s ‘Say It’ conjures up all kinds of memories associated with classic jazz sounds, creating a smoky atmosphere akin to the work of Miles Davis or Charles Mingus. The notes are easy going, drawn out, creating a gentle background for featured vocalist Sarah Wade to lay down her own notes. Add to that the scattered guitar notes which are laced with their own spiky distortion and the distant, unassuming brass tones, there’s a sense of being taken on a journey which may or may not have a defined route. To be sure, the destination is defined, and sometimes in sight, but ‘Say It’ is a song that takes great delight in taking the listener down a few alternative paths to stop and smell the roses along the way. Certainly, it’s a song that sits very firmly within its own category – metal heads and indie kids, move along – but it’s also a song that will have an appeal for those who get a kick out of those jazzy, laid back tones.
Daphne Willis has returned with her latest, Freaks Like Me. Hailing from Chigago and now operating out of Nashville, Willis’ own unique sound takes a classic R&B shape and remoulds it for her own purposes. Opening with title track ‘Freaks Like Me’, there is a laid back, woozy feel which also carries with it the suggestion that despite the apparently relaxed attitude, there is a whole lot bundled up in there. As someone who has spent some time battling her own personal demons, Daphne Willis happily presents her music into the public arena as a way of communicating not only her own journey of self discovery, but also to offer others the truth that there is always hope for all, no matter what they might be battling with. ‘Dopamine’ features some smoky and sultry tones, here with an up to the minute modern twist, channelling aspects of Sia’s vocal tone, and with a startlingly catchy melody to boot. Willis consistently succeeds to capture a real depth of emotion while restraining herself at the same time, never throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the listener to get her point across. ‘Somebody’s Someone’ is certainly the tearjerker on the record, with its emotional piano and lyrics that draw out the reality that everyone means something to someone. All the same, there are some real pop banger here too – ‘Lose Control’ offers a four to the floor beat that leads into one of the catchiest pop tracks you will have heard so far this year. Closing track ‘The Letter’ acts as the perfect conclusion to Freaks Like Me, a heartrending ballad packed with warm acoustic tones and a wistful thoughtfulness that sums up the overall feeling than runs through the album – warmth, attentiveness, and creativity.
From the opening notes of ‘Wanderlilly’, Race To Neptune’s Oh Contraire immediately brings up memories of classic, washed out shoegaze. The swirling, slacker guitar tones offer a gentle nod to Sonic Youth, which gradually build as the track progresses to create a wall of sound that wraps the listener in a warm comforting embrace. It’s the evocative chorus on the guitars that creates such an impact, offering a sense of nostalgia while also keeping its feet firmly in the here and now, looking straight ahead and ready to take you into the unknown future. Race To Neptune don’t just stick to one formula either – ‘Elysian Fields’ brings in acoustic tones that add a sensitivity with the bite of BritPop, while ‘Bulletful Of Piss’ takes a similar direction while unleashing a whole load of epic, indie guitars which screech and wail like there’s no tomorrow. What makes Race To Neptune’s sound on Oh Contraire is their remarkable ability to blend together such delicate tones with a restrained snarl often sitting underneath. Moments present themselves when a particular guitar riff will bubble up to the surface like a pan of boiling water, not least on ‘Iron Satire’, which draws on the classic tones of early Coldplay and Suede. Not wanting to pigeon hole the record too much, but any fans of mid nineties indie and Britpop, and lovers of grunge are going to find plenty to like on Oh Contraire.
Music, as we know, has an incredible power to transport us to new and wonderful places. Just as the way in which a certain smell can bring back memories long forgotten, so often certain sounds and tones do the same thing. Admittedly, this is subjective. We all come from different places, have all been shaped by different experiences, and as such the way we are moved and influenced by these things is going to be different from one person to the next. I say this because when I sat down to listen to Kyrre Bjørdal Sæther’s ‘Lost In Love’, all kinds of memories came flooding back to me. There is something in Sæther’s tone and production that manages to look back to a classic rock sound, while adding to it a modern feel that makes sure it is never simply treading over old ground. As a result, ‘Lost In Love’ is an entirely accessible rock anthem that immediately feels familiar and enjoyable, while also firmly recognises that we are all very much in the here and now, all moving forward into new things. From the opening notes, there is a brooding darkness, with its long guitar notes and deep piano which provides a solid underbelly to the song. Kyrre Bjørdal Sæther’s voice has a softness and sensitivity that draws the listener in with a welcoming tone, gradually leading into a chorus that is soaring, uplifting, and the kind of melody that will latch itself in your head and have you humming it to yourself for the rest of the day.
With his own particular brand of smooth R&B with a splash of soul, Doc Jazz teams up with Toy Matthews to bring us ‘It Takes Love’. Laid back with an effortless cool, it’s a track that welcomes you into its warm embrace and offers the opportunity to stop for a while and be gently serenaded. Just like that feeling you get when you get home to a place of warmth after a long day out in the cold, Doc Jazz keeps it as chilled out as possible. It’s not a song that is in a hurry, but one that takes its time and allows for the chance to pause for a moment and consider all that has gone on in the day, and then to appreciate the finer things in life that we don’t always notice in the midst of the mad rush of the day to day. Add to it all some real classic throwback tones that will bring up all kinds of musical memories, and you’ll find that what you’ve been given is a kind of comfort blanket made for music. Sometimes we don’t need music to break new ground or force us to be challenged – sometimes we just need a song to be sung to us that leaves us with the sense that maybe everything is all going to be alright.
Brutal and blistering, Sordid Party Time’s Uprising Now! offers a modern metal sound that will shake you to your core. With its growling, screeching guitars and darkly guttural vocals, the six tracks on offer rattle along at an insane pace with insistence and creativity. Opening with ‘Fun Game’ the band’s sound firmly establishes itself from the start and does a sterling job of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Pretenders beware, this is not for those of a nervous disposition or anyone who merely dabbles with metal. As a result, the first track acts as a signpost – abandon hope all ye who enter here! ‘Motivation Of The Blind’ continues with the same pace, this time with spikier guitars that threaten to burst the listener’s eardrums. Meanwhile, the thundering drums drag the track along like a wild animal with its newly captured prey, as though returning to its terrifying lair to satisfy its thirst for blood. There are also moments of alternative tones that appear, such as the glacial wash of the guitar notes on ‘Freak Show’ and mathy rhythm of ‘Spiral’. Make no mistake, this will be a real treat for those who like their metal with an experimental twist and love a strong, doomy vocal.