From start to finish, Joe Welch & Junior Kain’s ‘Freakin’ House Addicted’ is a thumping, pumping dance floor filler that grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let go until it has decided for itself when it’s over. What makes the track stand out in particular is the way in which it uses a variety of different elements to keep things interesting throughout. Rather than just banging ahead with one single mantra that is so prevalent in trance music, ‘Freakin’ House Addicted’ throws in some spoken samples that add texture and dynamic to the song, stirring up the track’s theme and punctuating it to create a sense of movement and energy. It’s fair to say that it’s the kind of track that is going to get house fans in a tizzy, while the chances are it would most likely leave all the indie kids cold, but why should that matter? What is on offer here is a celebration of the dance genre, with throwbacks to classic soul and R&B tropes, particularly in the snappy, twanging guitars and parping brass samples. Next time you are getting ready to go out and throw some shapes on the dance floor, try putting this on your playlist and it will definitely get you in the mood.
From the opening elements of Leo Salom’s Shades Of Faith, there is a comforting warmth to the minimalism that runs through the three tracks on offer. ‘Much Better’ begins with a synth wash which takes its time to unfold and gradually reveal a weightiness that is then found in the pulsing beat that kicks in. In true minimalist fashion, the beat doesn’t insist on sticking around, but sensitively draws away at key points to allow the track to breathe and for other parts to step to the forefront. Reversed cymbals flow in and out, while distant synth stabs create a dark but cosy feeling, punctuating the track and keeping it on course. ‘Desire’ continues in the same vein, with more of that deep and brooding tone which then gives way to a powerful dance beat that makes for a perfect club sound to get bodies dancing. Aesthetically what makes Leo Salom’s sound distinctive is the particular use of reverb on certain elements, which creates a sense of space and depth throughout every moment. This is made all the more apparent on ‘Long Nights’, which takes a classic dubsteb backdrop and places a honking, brassy melody over the top. It’s deep and dark, and certainly the kind of minimalist tunes that are required during the sleepy bus ride home at 2am after the club beats have finished rocking you.
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.