With a whole load of live photos, a full review and interviews to come, check out our full coverage from Leeds Festival 2014.
Bloody Knees are the latest band to emerge from the UK lo-fi punk scene. On August 25th the quartet release their new EP, 'Stitches' which promises to be a catchy and raw in equal measures. We spoke to vocalist Bradley Griffiths to discuss the new EP, joining Dog Knights Productions, being part of the UK emo and lo-fi resurgence and more.
If metalcore is your thing then say hello to From Her Eyes. The Welsh quartet are exclusively streaming their debut EP 'Demons' right here on Already Heard.
In relation to my previous review, it really grinds my skull when I come across a dull, slop of a hardcore band. So it was an absolute pleasure to listen to a hardcore record with the right balance of fury and passion. The third album by San Francisco’s Punch is a 20 minute wrecking ball of socio-political commentary. Compared to their blistering early work, ‘They Don’t Have to Believe’ shows the band at their most confident, focused, and most importantly, their most viscerally impacting. This is how a hardcore record should be in its purest form; no nonsense, just volcanically fuelled human emotions, hailing down upon the ignorant with rapid fire.
The most striking feature by the band is the seamless flow from d-beat blasting tempos to mid-tempo left turns. Songs like ‘Waiting Game’ gives you time to pick yourself up from a seizure after the pummelling temperament. The shorter tracks are the most deadly though; ‘Promises Kept’ leaves you with a fiery stitch, before being sent dizzily along screams and bass, until the final knockout plants you out cold on the floor. Breakdowns thrive wonderfully on this LP in the most un-clichéd way as found on ‘Personal Space’, sweating all the ferocity out of it.
For England’s second most populous city, Birmingham hasn’t had the impact on the landscape of British music that it should. Correct me if you can think of any more considerable, but in the mind of this writer, only heavy metal has been majorly influenced by Brum, having produced titans such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. However, looking to join modern indie compatriots such as Peace and Swim Deep are young quartet Dumb, who attempt here to bring the sounds of 80s/90s “slacker” or “college” rock (dependent on which name you prefer) married to the everyday tales and languid vocal style of Wakefield indie rockers The Cribs. Dumb seem destined for the big time, which makes this offering seem all the more cynical in putting so much effort into trying to sound effortless.
Imagine if Pavement, Pixies or even early R.E.M. had a production job that was anything but shonky. It wouldn’t sound right, would it? However, the glossy presentation gives tracks like 'Dive' a shimmer that feels all wrong, in a manner that suggest the Reading mainstage-core sound of bands like The 1975 and The Vaccines. While frontman Dylan Williams’ alternating sigh and sneer (which has more than a little Gallagher-esque tilt to it, especially on 'Two Bottles') attempts its level best to bring some semblance of soul to proceedings, this is a rather staid and beige affair. Even their website handle screams of a wantonly silly affectation - Dumb are here for mass consumption, and don’t care if they have to use “txt speak” to get there.
Featuring members from King Diamond, Uneven Structure, Kamlath and even Primus, supergroup Escapethecult is a progressive metal bonanza, featuring a myriad of established metal musicians. Yes, we’ve seen this countless times before. A group of respected musicians collaborate together to create music of their combined talents. This has proven to be as successful as Down, as wild as S.O.D, or as generic as Hellyeah. So, are Escapethecult the best supergroup that has ever been formed? Probably not. Can Escapethecult be compared with some of the best supergroups that have ever been formed? Maybe, maybe not. Is Escapethecult an interesting enough collaboration to lend an ear to? Absolutely.
At first listen however, I admittedly dismissed ‘All You Want To’, thinking it was enjoyable, yet believing that there was no factor that made it wholly memorable. Upon further listening however, this original view was completely shattered. Rather than grabbing you from the get-go, ‘All You Want To’ subtly weaves the style and sound that each member exhibits, and it is only upon further listening that you can appreciate how intricate and well-crafted ‘All You Want To’ really is.
Blacklist Royals' new album ‘Die Young with Me’ captures the essence of southern American Rock and Roll. Founded by twin brothers Rob and Nat Rufus, the heartfelt lyrics of love and loss resonate throughout the album. Such themes are especially poignant here with an insight into the brothers’ story, as Rob battled lung cancer at the tender age of 17. Understandably, a mixture of uncertainty, daring optimism and profound grief take centre stage.
‘Righteous Child’ opens the album with its sole guitar illuminated by the hum of the organ, yet features delicate notes provided by the piano. The loose melancholic guitar strums are permeated by the running bass line allowing the feeling of intimacy to build before the awaiting vocals. The minimalist and repetitive approach draws greater attention to the vocals when they begin. Subtle changes in the track such as frequent tempo changes make the track of greater technical interest. This particularly highlights the growing maturity of Blacklist Royals in their crafting of individual songs. For this album, the approach was to sound “like two brothers in a room playing music together” and the connectivity of this is certainly achieved with ‘Die Young with Me’.
The serene beginnings of the title track make for a warm welcome to Dry the River's second album 'Alarms In The Heart'. Quickly expanding and evolving into the throws of the East Londoners’ signature reverb drenched soundscapes, it’s an opener that serves as an exemplary foreword to the rest of the album’s unravelling.
In the most exposed moments of the record like the tender ‘It Was Love That Laid Us Low’ and the painfully beautiful ‘Vessel’, frontman Peter Liddle conjures a tranquility comparable to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lilac Wine’ and Scott Matthews ‘Elusive’. It’s a vocal performance that never falters. A guest appearance from former Delgados singer Emma Pollock lends itself well to the romantic sway and ambience of 'Roman Candle', whereas the more insistent, upbeat ventures like 'Rollerskate' and 'Everlasting Light' shift the focus onto the transcendent leads and folk-rock jangles of Liddle and guitarist Matthew Taylor. It’s a tapestry of sound aided further by the pristine production and some wonderfully sparse, considered string arrangements from Valgeir Sigurðsson, perhaps best known for his work with Sigur Ros and Bjork.
KEYBOARDS! KEYBOARDS EVERYWHERE. Driven, melodic keyboards at the heart of it all, textured ambient keyboards shimmering in the back, dark keyboards, upbeat keyboards, keyboards playing over and over again in your mind long after the final (keyboard) notes of Maybeshewill’s 'Fair Youth' have rung. Not that their prominent use should come as much of a surprise to fans of the band, considering even beloved 'Not For Want Of Trying'’s claim to greatness is in no small part due to Matthew Daly’s hypnotic brand of arpeggiated keys. Nevertheless, there is a sense that their career had thus far been forged on using them as the supporting pillars of their music, a strong foundation on which structure could then be built by way of crunchy guitar riffs and powerful drumming or, alternatively, sweet melodies and the odd vocal section. In that regard, ‘Fair Youth’ stands out as something of a reinvention, an album much less straight-shooting than it is expansive and exploratory, much less grandiose than it is made up of lovingly-crafted subtleties. What it lacks in immediacy, especially compared to their previous efforts, it rather makes up for in depth and coherence.
Indeed, the production side of things is what struck me most on a first listen. Whereas the contrast between the keys and the rest of the instruments used to consistently suggest the first was clashing with the others, 'Fair Youth' has everything blended together in seamless unity. Changes from quiet to heavy instances are no longer the making of sudden shifts but of gradual, one is tempted to say organic, morphing. To put it another way, there was very little of the element of surprise with regard to where a Maybeshewill track would inevitably lead, whereas here the songwriting strikes me as aimed towards contemplation more than directness. The most obvious example of this can be found in album closer, and personal favourite, ’Volga’, in which a simple hopeful melody is repeated, gathering momentum and power as delicate guitars, some genuinely terrific drumming and a backing choir are introduced. There is something infinitely more intimidating about a song’s emotional strength emerging in no apparent rush.
Now this is going to make it sound as if I’ve been living on the moon for the past decade, but reviewing this album was the first time I had ever heard Astpai. This is despite them having been a band for twelve years, this being their fifth full length record, and the fact that they’ve toured the UK extensively and almost always with bands I would normally go to see.
I have heard people afford the Austrian four-piece glowing praise and so got stuck into ‘Burden Calls’ with great anticipation. Opening track ‘Single Use’ did not disappoint, its lightning fast melodic hardcore bouncing haphazardly off the walls like A Wilhelm Scream but if anything with a harder edge as the song explodes into a furious, Dan Yemin-esque vocal refrain of “talkin’ bout degeneration!”
Don’t you just love familiarity? It’s always comforting when you listen to something so safe and predictable…Did I just say predictable? Of course I did! Don’t get me wrong, when a band does follow familiar genre tropes, it only pays off when there’s a spark, making you think, “I must buy everything by this band and I must see them at every show!” If such a spark doesn’t exist, the material falls flat on its arse. At this point, you may be thinking that I’ve written a negative review on the new EP by Kent hardcore mob Pay No Respect. However, I’ll keep my personal preferences at bay, and lay out its few good qualities as well as its bad points.
Released out of El Hefe’s label Cyber Tracks (NOFX, guitarist), LA rockers Warner Drive have churned out ten, solo-fuelled, sleazy rock n roll jams in the form of their new album, ‘City Of Angels’. While mostly maintaining a hard rock sound, Warner Drive tends to lean towards punk in the form of Alkaline Trio and The Distillers, among other bands. Nonetheless, their well-produced songs accompanied by their overall catchiness, has proved ‘City of Angels’ to be a fairly enjoyable listen.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths that Warner Drive possesses is their straight-up radio-friendly tone. “How is that an asset?” you die-hard punks may be asking. Well, there is nothing wrong with a commercial sound provided it’s done well, and Warner Drive certainly deliver. Songs like ‘King of Swing’ and ‘West Memphis Three’ consists of many memorable riffs and solos, however, it’s the opening track ‘Rising From The Fallen’, in which the band really shows off their promise as a future arena rock band. Consisting of an underlying synth, the track slowly builds before launching into an anthemic combination of solos and chorus, which is sure to be a live staple for future shows.
Hardcore; it’s a genre that has split itself evenly into various different styles over the last 30 years since its inception. Yet, like any genre, there’s often an oversaturation caused by so many bands replicating a certain style. So in this case, I’m referring to what the critics would describe as “tough guy style” hardcore. Let’s face it, use of the same riffs, rhythms, breakdowns, pace, and what have you, is bound to get stale. That’s unless the band in question has a degree of freshness to them, a spark that makes it not so mind numbingly boring to listen to. Cold World appears to have that fire on their long awaited second album, ‘How the Gods Chill’.
Compared to previous album ‘Dedicated to Babies Who Came Feet First’, ‘How the Gods Chill’ excels in consistency and impact. With help from renowned producer Will Yip, the band’s confidence has been captured here, plus it doesn’t feel as flimsy, a tighter affair compared to the output of their contemporaries. The groove and bouncy hip hop influence feels like a natural appendage to the hardcore structure. ‘The Real Deal’ is a good example of this concoction, making you want to lose your shit in the pit completely (pardon my language). ‘Cracks of Hate’ is another strong example, but in the most obvious way as it seamlessly breaks down from hardcore grit into hip hop beats and wordplay featuring rapper Meyhem Lauren. There’s a sense of fun in this style, providing a contrast to the bleak, harsh reality surrounding the lyrics.
So Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) are by and large considered one of the—now many—bands who have helped spark up a renewed love for those heartfelt, low-fi sounds of nineties indie. You know, the one that seemingly permeates virtually every emo album nowadays. Even at mid-level cynicism, I struggle to believe this sort of nostalgia is always as earnest as it claims to be. Here’s an idea: maybe you’re clutching at proven cult stylings because you feel it will give your music the veneer of recognition it perhaps wouldn’t otherwise deserve (or perhaps wouldn’t earn, despite your qualities). Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), I’m happy to report, sound like there could have been no other way to play these songs. Newest album 'You Will Eventually Be Forgotten' is a composite of fragile emotionality, the fuzzy warmth of lo-fi production, along with the “in the garage” intimacy it entails.
I can’t claim to have had any knowledge of this husband-and-wife duo prior to being receiving this album to review, and my initial thought looked something like this: a mix between a rougher (in terms of production value) The Weakerthans, Billy Corgan-esque vocals and that sweet, sweet emo juice. The resulting mix stripped back and made as minimalistic as it could go. The genuine recipe probably requires a little more Death Cab, certainly more than the “punkier” emo bands they cite as influences (though those slightly heavier leanings do express themselves on occasion, namely ’Foxfire’ and ’We Are People Here, We Are Not Numbers’.
Recorded live as part of ARC’s Live Session Series, the brand new 7 inch from stateside punks Pale Angels showcases some of the band’s newer material along with a cover of The Feelies’ 'Crazy Rhythms'. Right down to the artwork, it’s about as raw an offering as you can imagine.
There’s certainly a crowd that will appreciate the DIY ethic of the release. The all encompassing lo-fi hiss perfected by Jesus & Mary Chain and more recently Eagulls is prominent throughout. 'Just Faces' and 'Romantic Depression' are a wash of disorientating punk jams and manic, rambling vocal work that will satisfy the aforementioned clique but very few beyond.
It is difficult to believe that Create to Inspire’s new EP ‘Halfway Home’ is a debut. With its clean and careful production, this EP is certain to gain the band a loyal following.
The ‘Halfway Home’ EP opens abruptly with the fast-paced and often chaotic track, ‘In Light’. It quickly becomes apparent that the verses are constructed as dark and heavy elements of the song, whereas the choruses offer some relief as they are cleaner and more melodic, displaying the versatility and talent of this band. The contrast of the heaviness of the verse and the melodic sound of the chorus gives weight and meaning to the lyrics of the verses, particularly as Sean Midson’s raw vocals soon break through to the forefront of the mix. Thereafter, ‘In Light’ seems to become more personal, though the dark, frustrated tone of the first verse is sustained. While precise, carefully-considered layering is pleasing throughout, this is a track bursting with contrasts; further into ‘In Light’, Create to Inspire craft an impressive contrast between raw, background vocals and the cleaner sounds of the front man Midson. Though the first track of the EP began suddenly and powerfully, ‘In Light’ fades out without a noticeable conclusion, giving the whole piece a coherent and continuous feel.
Calling All Cars is an Australian band that have gained so much respect since their inception in 2005. They tour relentlessly and sprinkle their music like confetti. The act have recorded a new album called 'Raise The People', which is engineered with an annoying strain of uninspiring songs. Finding any monumental contributions is like trying to fight a roaring lion with no arms.
Delving into this bubblegum music, trying to dissect it for some wholesome goodness is complex. The electronic sound is mashed up with the same beat over and over again. The band attempt to drag out their feelings and showcase them through their unhinged music, but it just doesn’t work. The music is manic and is a disservice to the genre that they loosely commit to. The album offers a sweetness that the kids of today might bite into. It might be a record that you might play at a party when heavily under the influence.
For the masses of people who still pine desperately for the grunge heyday of the early nineties, dress in plaid and decry the lack of quality by new bands representing the genre, you need to check out London trio The Kut right now. Go on, off you go, I’ll wait. See, a bit special aren’t they?
Unfortunately being all of the Lady persuasion, the band seem doomed to be endlessly compared to Hole, however this does them a huge disservice as there is enough depth and composure on show on debut EP ‘Make Up’ to make them worthy of more thought and consideration then such a lazy comparison.
That said, for those who do need a comparison to have an idea of if they’ll like a band, try a gloriously scuzzy middle-ground between Nirvana, Placebo and The Distillers, and you won’t be too far off.