Album of the week (05 April): JAWS – The Ceiling

JAWS - The Ceiling album cover

This is the third full length outing from Brummie indie-rock trio JAWS and this album displays enough maturity and song craft to justify it as album of the week in what turned out to be quite a strong shortlist.

The Ceiling has just enough dreaminess, grunge and shoegaze to push a lot of my buttons, and in many ways is quite reminiscent of the work of Shame, who also produced a strong album with Songs of Praise last year.

It takes a little while for this album to get going. Driving at Night offers us some warm familiar tones, with a classic jangly indie guitar riff, while Feel has a distinct Foals feel to it with its poppy chorus and slightly staccato rhythm section.

All very nice so far, though not necessarily blowing your socks off, but the album keeps growing as you listen.

With Do You Remember? we get our first taste of some heavier grungy rhythm guitars, albeit balanced out by some lighter lead guitar work at first but as the song gets into gear the heavier tones dominate and we end up with a bit of a stomper.

Fear offers us laid back grooves alongside lighter touch guitars that really sweep you up as the song motors along. End of the World has some Slowdive influence at the start with some echo laden guitars complementing Connor Schofield’s vocals before the song veers off into a satisfyingly heavy area.

Two more indie classics follow, Patience offers us beats, whereas Looking / Passing has a more atmospheric start. But however build well as the songs progress leaving us well happy by the end.

Strangely, title track The Ceiling is probably the weakest track on the album – a lower key number that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Please Be Kind is another classic indie belter with an anthemic wall of sound guitar laden chorus, while closer January is another groove-laden number after a slower start.

Ultimately this is an indie album, pure and simple. But it is good to see that there are still some newer bands injecting a bit of fresh life into a mature genre at a time when some of the old names are coming back out of the woodwork to reclaim their territory.

Release date: 05 April 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Do You Remember?

For fans of:

  • Shame
  • Foals
  • Slowdive

Listen on Spotify

The best albums of March 2019

1: FEWS – Into Red

Rating: 9/10 – Read full review

Listen on Spotify

2: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Rating: 8.5/10 – Read full review

Listen on Spotify

3: Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

Listen on Spotify

4: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

Listen on Spotify

5: Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work

Rating: 8/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

6: Flight Of The Conchords – Live In London

Rating: 8/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

7: These New Puritans– Inside The Rose

Rating: 7.5/10 – Read full review

Listen on Spotify

8: Little Simz – GREY Area

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

9: The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

More classy emotive and enveloping soundtracks from these damn-fine purveyors of blissful grooves and soundscapes.

Rating: 7.5/10

Listen on Spotify

10: Zefur Wolves – Truth Is In The Stars

Droning, drawly alt-indie rock with some pop undertones. A satisfyingly languid assault on your senses.

Rating: 7.5/10

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (29 March): Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work

This four piece based in Brighton and Glasgow certainly enjoy to walk on the heavier side of the musical highway and Lower Slaughter‘s sophomore release revels in doomy, sludgy, brilliant riffs enhanced by the spiky growling vocals of Sinead Young.

I loved debut album, What Big Eyes, and with Some Things Take Work they have moved the dial again. This is a heavy, raucous and clever sonic assault that you may have to steady yourself for before donning the headphones.

The overall impression is that of Garage/DIY rock gone extreme, but despite the lo-fi nature of whats on offer, the band are as tight as can be and have explosive riffs coming out of every pore.

Opener Gas is a slower, grinding number that relies heavily on the vocals of Young to carry the track, which she does easily. We then are launched into the chugging Reboundaries, that sits somewhere between punk and Sabbath on the rock scale.

To be fair, there’s not a huge amount of variation in this album. Stylistically your’e going from punk, through metal of various types, but when it’s this good, who cares.

There are some different shades in here. Standout track Some Things Take Work is higher paced, slightly lighter in tone and actually quite catchy. A Portrait Of The Father contains some of the most delicate moments on the album and a slightly bluesy feel.

Elsewhere, there’s the all our Mötorhead-tastic The Measure Of A Man, and some properly sludgy doom-metal-done-well on Revenant, but generally you know what you’re going to get on this album – and it’s likely to make you ears bleed.

Closer The Body epitomises everything that has come before it, shifting between jangly indie guitars and crunching riffs, culminating in a hypnotic, head-pounding sign-off.

Certainly this album isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, but those with a penchant for the heavier side of music should lap this up.

Release date: 29 March 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Into The Fire

For fans of:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
  • Sleep

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (22 March): These New Puritans – Inside The Rose

The fourth studio album from Southend’s Barnett twins is probably the most accessible These New Puritans album so far. Do expect too many roller coaster-type thrills on Inside The Rose, but this is most certainly a rewarding listen for TNP fans and newcomers alike.

There are some delicious moments of contrasting light and dark tones on this album – often at the same time. Opener Infinity Vibraphones is a case in point. It is both soft and ominous, with the vibraphones of the track name providing a juxtaposition of impatient relaxation, rounded off with some emotive strings and a militaristic drumbeat.

This contrast of near blissful tones against a dark background features strongly on other tracks, such as A-R-P, with its arpeggiated keyboards giving way to some much softer tones interspersed with the occasional brief bout of heavy distorted bass.

Like several of the tracks on Inside the Rose, the rhythm section is nowhere to be found on ARP, until very late on in the track. Where The Trees Are On Fire employs a similar tactic, which until the final third is a slow, beautiful lament, and the only real deployment of TNP’s trademark brass section on the album.

The reluctance to put real rhythm behind a lot of the tracks can feel frustrating at times, as the sense is that’s it’s always just around the corner, and on tracks such as Beyond Black Sun, it can start to feel a little dirge-like. However, the overall ominous beauty that’s on show overshadows this and while there are still some notes of discordance that TNP are well-known for, such as on Anti-Gravity or the twisted rhythms on the challenging but ultimately rewarding Into The Fire, they are nowhere near the levels seen on previous works.

Another fine work from a now well-established band exploring the possibilities within their unique style.

Release date: 22 March 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Into The Fire

For fans of:

  • Teeth Of The Sea
  • Gazelle Twin
  • The Twilight Sad

Listen on Spotify

Normal service resuming

It’s been a hectic few weeks here as a family home move and lack of broadband rendered me unable to provide my usual weekly music round-up and album reviews.

I’m just starting to get back into the swing of it now and I’ll let you know of any gems that I may have missed during my two-week hiatus as I work my way through the backlog.

Onwards…

Album of the week: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

The Comet Is Coming - Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery album cover

Fair warning, I am about to use the phrase ‘Space Jazz’. I implore you to look beyond that or risk missing out on a quite brilliant album…

Space Jazz trio The Comet Is Coming have been quite a revelation for me. I first had my ears opened to a bit of jazz last year by, among others, the brilliant Sons of Kemet. Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the main reasons why Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery is so darn good is the sax and clarinet of Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings that features on this album. But it also manages to add some impressive and heavy bass synth work to the mix, adding in some real dance floor credentials.

The album starts off realtively sedate, giving little indication of what’s to come. Because The End Is Really The Beginning is an atmospheric, almost proggy, start to the album with little in the way of beats. It’s a real scene setter that then leads into Birth of Creation, which introduces some nice meaty, throbbing, synths to the clarinet work. You start to get the feeling that the album is beginning to lead you somewhere and building up to something more special.

Which is precisely what we get with Summon The Fire. There’s a pounding synth, great drum work, Hutchings’s saxophone gets its first proper workout – Sons of Kemet-style – and there’s a few nice background effects going on too. This is proper jazz music for the dance floor.

Things then get deeper with Blood Of The Past, with a fantastic mid-tempo hypnotic bass synth line that becomes a proper head-nodder. There’s even a slight mid-eastern feel to the sax work, but what makes this the standout track is the inclusion of spoke word maestro Kate Tempest from the midway point. Even if the word ‘jazz’ sends shivers down your spine, give this track a whirl.

Super Zodiac sees more breathless sax work from Hutchins. Bar the dreamy synths, this could easily be a Sons of Kemet track, but the inclusion of them adds a bonus layer.

The album then starts to ease off the pedal slightly. Astral Flying‘s slower pace allows both the synth and sax some breathing space, while Timewave Zero is more typical space jazz (if there is such a thing) but moves towards a more house-y feel by the end.

Unity offers us some laid back tribal drum rhythms, while closer The Universe Wakes Up provides a low-key atmospheric ending to the album, with just a hint of random jazz wig out (the bit that usually really annoys me).

I’m still not yet a jazz enthusiast, most of it still seems like pompous musical masturbation to my mind, but I can certainly get down with this kind of groove.

Beware the comet, for it most certainly is coming.

Release date: 15 March 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Blood Of The Past

For fans of:

  • Sons of Kemet
  • Theon Cross
  • Kate Tempest

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Hans Zimmer – The World Of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration

Han(d)s down Hans Zimmer is my favourite soundtrack composer (bar John Williams obvs), but I found many of the track choices on this album bewildering.

The World Of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration is a collection of concert works, though the recording quality is so good you only really reminded of that by the occasional round of applause that pops up.

Zimmer has a wealth of film scores to choose from and he seems determined to work his way through as many as possible on this two-hour record.

Yet despite the length, not enough time was spent on some of his more accomplished works. The entire Dark Knight trilogy was dealt with in the first six minutes and his utterly brilliant work on Inception was limited to a four-minute rendition of the beautiful Time.

By comparison, Zimmer spends 20-plus minutes working his way through elements of the rather pedestrian soundtrack to The Da Vinci Code. There was also a rather overlong tribute to his work on Mission: Impossible 2.

Other odd inclusions were tracks from Madagascar, The Holiday, and Pearl Harbour – as if anyone needs reminding of that abomination of a film, ever.

There was a decent amount of time covering Gladiator and the album finishes off with the rousing theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately by that point I was pretty hacked off with what had come before, excluding a couple of brilliant moments.

Zimmer is a hugely talented composer, but I don’t feel this album reflects that particularly well. Feel free to cherry pick the best moments from it – in reality this could have been easily cut down to half an hour and you wouldn’t have been any worse off.

Release date: 15 March 2019

Rating: 5.5/10

Standout track: Inception: Time

For fans of:

  1. John Williams
  2. Danny Elfman
  3. Howard Shore

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 album cover

Confession time – Foals haven’t been on my radar since 2010’s Total Life Forever, which featured the brilliant Spanish Sahara but little of interest.

With that in mind I wasn’t expecting too much from Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1, but how wrong I was. This is an exceptionally good half an album that manages to constantly catch you off guard.

It displays a mastery of song progression – with layers building and building on each other until you are incapable of anything but being sucked into the tracks.

On numerous occasions the first few bars of a track leave you with low expectations and little indication of what’s to come but by the end you’re left thinking ‘that was fucking brilliant!’

Prime examples are Syrups, a slower number with a dominant bass that adds keyboards, soulful vocals and guitars as it goes, while On The Luna starts all Maroon 5 but gets beefier as it goes and is beyond recognition by the close of the track.

Sunday is perfectly named, as it has a laid-back sunny Sunday afternoon feel to it. But even here we get some guitar and keyboard layers, a squelchy bass coming in and even a change of tempo that will be perfect for getting the summer festival crowd bouncing.

There are some more full-on numbers too, such as In Degrees, which is an all-out dance number – Foals style, and the brilliant White Onions, which has buzzy guitars and some delicious heavy notes in the chorus.

Even in the quieter moments, such as with the synth chorals of opener Moonlight and the solo piano of closer I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me), there is still plenty of atmosphere and emotion on show.

I had to listen to this album immediately after finishing it first time round just to make sure I hadn’t been hoodwinked by it, but if anything it sounded better second time around.

Part 2 of this work is out in the autumn, and I for one can’t wait.

Release date: 08 March 2019

Rating: 8.5/10

Standout track: White Onions

For fans of:

  • The Twilight Sad
  • Editors
  • Klaxons

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind – CollectiV

Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind - CollectiV album cover

They may well try to disguise it under a number of styles, some incredibly growly guitars and even more gravelly vocals, but at heart Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind have produced a rather good Rock ‘n Roll album.

CollectiV starts with a very abrasive guitar riff in Sex Robot that is begging you to stand up and take notice. This riff roughmess is matched only by the rasping growl of the vocals. There’s a faint whiff of saxophone in the chorus, which is more on show in the following (and standout) track Satan’s Got His Heart Set On You, a jazzy, cajun-infused rockabilly romp.

O Genie pulls in a middle-eastern influence to match the deep, distorted guitars that are pervasive throughout the album, while there’s more that a dash of Nick Cave crooning and strings in Meth Church.

We have western-style guitars and piano over drawling vocals in the slower, more atmospheric Dark Secrets, and country influenced slide guitars in the ballady Going There Anyway.

But in all these songs, you never escape the Rock ‘n Roll influence, which is reinforced by more straight out RnR numbers such as Attack of the Killer Brainz, I Found A Love, and Shazam. Much like Motörhead always called themselves a Rock ‘n Roll band first and foremost, so it is with Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind. In fact in many ways, they are a bit of a Motörhead lite, if you will.

A very enjoyable effort but there’s just a tad too much rock cliché on show to stop it earning an exceptional rating.

Release date: 08 March 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Satan’s Got His Heart Set On You

For fans of:

  • Nick Cave
  • Tindersticks
  • Motörhead

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Flight of the Conchords – Live in London

Flight of the Conchords - Live in London album cover.

It’s been more than a decade since Brett McKenzie and Jermaine Clement burst onto our screens in the highly acclaimed series Flight of the Conchords, which followed the pair as they tried to break New York with their hapless folk band.

After two series and two albums, largely based on the songs featured in the series, they went on to have successful movie and TV careers separately, but clearly still pined for the good ‘ol days working together. So, last year they embarked on a reunion tour, which was recorded for HBO when they reached London, and is now available as an album.

While McKenzie and Clement are comedy actors first and foremost, they also know how to spin a good tune while working in their comedy gold. This album features the full live set and includes classics such as Inner City Pressure, Foux da Fafa, Mutha’uckas, Bowie and The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room).

There’s also new tracks that haven’t made a recording appearance before, such as Father and Son, Summer of 1353, and Iain and Deanna.

While I really enjoyed their previous albums, Live in London stands above those largely due to the welcome addition of banter between between the two and their ability to feed off the audience’s reaction.

Is it a comedy show or a gig? Both probably, but unlike with most comedy songs their music still stands the test of time. This is a great way to experience Flight of the Conchords, whether your a fan or a newcomer.

Release date: 08 March 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Mutha’uckas – Hurt Feelings

For fans of:

  • Spinal Tap
  • Tenacious D
  • Bill Bailey

Listen on Spotify