With Queens of the Stone Age in the middle of a UK arena tour, we’ve decided to highlight
five of the bands best tracks for this edition of "Fives".
We've got the new EP from Yorkshire riff merchants NOSE right here! Take a listen to 'Sick
Continuing our Reuben theme from last week’s Fives and in celebration of frontman Jamie Lenman’s new double solo album, we take a look at two of the albums for "Versus". Its
‘Racecar Is Racecar Backwards' against 'In Nothing We Trust'.
Calgary's debut EP 'Fight Fire With Fire' is a bright, warming collection of indie pop songs.
With comparisons to Hellogoodbye and John Mayer, the four tracks showcase a band with pop sensibilities and plenty of potential to breakthrough. We caught up with the band to find out more.
Returning with their first album in six years, 'Balancing' sees Hertfordshire’s The October Game showcase dynamic growth and versatility with a brooding undertone throughout. Already Heard recently spoke to Luke Williams and Nick Kozuch to discuss the album in
more detail; the writing process, its various packages, and working with Scylla Records.
Some bands are haunted by the spectre of post-hardcore’s most pervasive tendencies: a crippling fear of being either too heavy or too poppy. In this fierce internal struggle for street credibility, many bands ultimately resort compromise, that vile stifler of creative progress. Unfortunately, Peterborough quintet We Are Fiction fall victim to this sweeping infection. They are, however, much more willing to shake things up than many a lesser band. That’s not to say that they’ve set their sights on breaking any moulds, but instead seem fully intent on covering the entire palette of songwriting possibilities available within them. For the most part, that youthful enthusiasm for genre exploration is ultimately their salvation on debut album ‘One For Sorrow’.
Looking for a relentless barrage of sexy hooks, catchy choruses? Does a combination of raspy screams and squeaky clean pipes make your metaphorical pants drop? Enjoy the odd breakdown (emphasis on odd; invisible emphasis on ‘actually not as cliché as those murder-inducing copy-paste 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 breakdowns’)? Look no further! We Are Fiction provide the goods, and they’ve even taken the time — so often wasted on breakdowns I expect— into the arrangements. The record is the better for it for even when it falters a little, you’re at least guaranteed not to fall into patterns of repetition, which in turn gives the listener less incentive to turn it off.
Alcopop! have a reputation for releasing albums in unconventional fashions, perhaps one of the reasons why they picked up Best Small Label at this year’s AIM Awards. From the label that brought you Gunning For Tamar’s EP on a watch and Johnny Foreigner’s EP on a frisbee, comes perhaps their wildest gimmick yet - for the bargain price of £300, this compilation can be yours complete with an Alcopop! themed bicycle. Fortunately, it’s available for digital download for those of us who already have bikes/most of their marbles, and not only showcases some new Alcopop! names, but brings us some of the best in up-and-coming British music.
The compilation kicks off with rather more of a punk flavour than one might expect of Alcopop! Records, with Max Raptor kicking things off in fine fettle with 'The King Is Dead' (think a more British Billy Talent), followed by Gnarwolves’ 'Tongue Surfer', a band so ubiquitous you’d have to be hiding at the bottom of the Marianas Trench not to have heard them by now. However, the next two offerings may not be so familiar to the ears of the wider public - Jaws provide a fresh lilt on the kind of style Everything Everything peddle, and two-piece Playlounge thrash through 'Cream Soda', sounding like an even brattier version of the aforementioned Johnny Foreigner.
Hailing from Norwich, Aeolist are a progressive tech-metal band in the vein of The Contortionist and Between the Buried and Me. Bringing the progressive strife of long winding songs combined with excellent musicianship, Aeolist have their fingers on the pulse with this release.
This self-titled EP is comprised with four tracks spanning around the half an hour mark. The EP itself flows through from beginning to end continuously without fading, which gives a grand scale of this being a single beast with four entry points.
‘I’ thrusts the tech edge down the throats of listeners straight away with guitar hooks, sweeps and complex riffage. This is complimented by the equally impressive drumming, which keeps up the flow utilizing blasts, complex fills and fast beats. The action never stops for too long but when it does it’s kept interesting and creative with post metal elements, which contain the chaos throughout.
Forever Came Calling is a California pop-punk band much in the vein of Handguns and Neck Deep, to pick two of many out, that have released a full length and an a couple of EPs, including one with the former of those bands. Family Thief is an acoustic solo act from the same town, Twentynine Palms, who has released three songs prior to now. With this in mind, that the two would do a split together is hardly surprising – probably the case of an established band helping out their friend – but unfortunately for them the results are uneven and ultimately a bit forgettable, but not so much as to cause anything near a negative response, kind of like a weak cup of tea.
The split is entirely acoustic – 2 songs from each act. Weirdly enough, Forever Came Falling's songs tend to fare a little better than Family Thief's maybe since the change of style holds some novelty and presents a new(ish) challenge for the usually electric band. In any case, their songs sound like a new approach has been taken to them, rather than a re-appropriation of ideas for standard pop-punk songs. For instance, the hooks are evenly balanced between guitar licks, orchestral accompaniments and vocal melodies. This gives their half a very well-rounded sound and not milking a particular aspect keeps it from getting stale. In particular, 'Endangered Innocent' has an abundance of features to listen out for, especially in the second chorus which fires on all cylinders in the subtlest way possible. However, the song is let down by the awkward transition into its final section.
It’s rare you get to hear a record as quintessentially British as Kill Chaos’ debut album 'PromisesPromises'. Note the reference to Britain as a whole, as though this trio hail from the environs of the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, their line of influence encompasses styles from all 4 constituent parts of the United Kingdom - taking as much from English compatriots like Reuben and Hundred Reasons as they do from Scots such as Biffy Clyro and Sucioperro, simultaneously embracing the Welsh sounds of Feeder, as well as Northern Irish rockers Fighting With Wire. This initial full-length release comes after six years as a band, but this is a record that would fit more comfortably in the musical climes of their year of inception than those of today.
'PromisesPromises' commences with ‘Boy Done Good’, a snarling curtain-raiser that puts the listener on edge from the get-go with a menacing bass tone and every hit on Tom Waddingham’s drum kit feeling like a gut shot. Kill Chaos continue to apply considerable bite with the intense grooves of 'Crush', but it’s on the melodic and widescreen 'Falling Down' that the most favourable side of the three-piece emerges. Weighting their anthemic tendencies with considerable punch wonderfully, 'Futures' continues the record’s upbeat element, rounding off an empathic opening four tracks on 'PromisesPromises'.
Back in the day, AF Records was one of my go to places for great new music. Almost every band that showed up there had at least one record that I loved. Then AF office flooded, and the label went into hiding for nine years. Now, as if by some sort of punk rock magic, it’s back and it’s releasing records by bands like Worlds Scariest Police Chases. It’s as if the label never went away.
Throughout ‘NOFX… And Out Come The Wolves Dookie’, Worlds Scariest Police Chases (seriously, I’m not sure if the band or the record has a stupider, more wonderful name) wear their influences on their sleeves. Or, as with the Good Clean Fun homage in ‘You’re Only Punk Once’, they just outright offer these influences on a platter to be enjoyed. It’s just good old, no frills, fun punk. Just like Mamma used to make. Had Mamma ever been in a positive hardcore band at some point.
Every track’s a classic – a term I must acknowledge that I use both loosely and with absolute certainty. Opening track, ‘Blacking In’, gives away almost everything: “La di da di we like to party” / “Fuck the Man. Fuck them Man. Fuck the Man.” Fun is good and the man is bad, now for some songs about cops and selling out.
When I first heard that the lead vocalist of Comeback Kid had a side project, I definitely did not expect to hear what is on this short and to the point EP. What can only be described as indie rock with a hardcore punk twist, it is an interesting yet catchy sound they have produced which works really well.
‘Poli’s Song’ starts the EP off with some catchy indie style guitar work as drums and bass come in a nice lead piano and organ sound is layered on top. Neufeld’s vocals are a mixture of rough and smooth, back and forth between shouting and softly singing it’s interesting to hear over such a light sounding song.
A song on the EP that verges on being the catchiest is ‘Cards In Place’ which has a slow melodic dual vocal intro, with a catchy chorus coming in halfway through. It finishes with a heavy bass line, a guitar solo and some final dual melodic vocals. The EP of course has a more heavy sounding song in the form of ‘Nothing At All’, heavy guitars mixed with some melodic flourishes and some slow running vocals bring another element to the EP.
While there are plenty of pop-punk bands out there at the moment, I’m happy to say we could use a few more like Roam. Based in Eastbourne, Roam make no attempts to be a US-style pop punk tribute, instead choosing to sing in their Southern UK accent. The result is surprisingly refreshing, and as a result they sound a lot like London pop-punkers Home Advantage crossed with The Story So Far – which is in my books a good thing.
‘Head Down’ is a short and sweet five-track EP, which manages to effectively convey what the band are about: hooks, emotion and early-twenties angst. It’s great fun to listen to and I get the impression they’d be a great live band.
Roam seem to favour rhyming or half-rhyming lyric, which when it works is deadly in its effectiveness - “This is a warning sign for everything you left behind” on ‘Sticker Slap’ for example, and cringe worthy when it fails, i.e “I worry but I’m still hungry” on ‘Nothing in Return’. Despite the mixed results, I really like the lyrics; they’re relatable without being tired or overused.
Front Porch Step is Jack Mcelfresh’s latest acoustic solo project. Jack himself has been a fixture in the Newark live music scene for quite a few years, appearing across hundreds of acoustic, pop punk and hardcore shows throughout the last 6 of 7 years. It wasn’t until 2012 though, he started going under the name Front Porch Step and it wasn’t long before he was featured in Alternative Press magazine which was the start of a snowball effect in terms of his audience, culminating with the release of his album ‘Aware’ this November.
I’ll be honest; when I hear the words “acoustic” and “album” next to each other I am kind of already a little bit bored. Don’t get me wrong, I like acoustic music. A good acoustic EP has the potential to wipe the floor with some full-band outputs in recent memory. It’s just when you put 11 acoustic tracks next to each you’re in danger of each track not standing out very much because the overall sound will be extremely similar and ultimately become boring. I went in with an open mind though, and for the most part I’d say my patience paid off.
So, The Saddest Landscape and My Fictions did not, as most bands do, release a split. They went and created a collaborative record: one song each plus a third song in the form of a 13-minute piece of magnificence by the name of ‘When You Are.’ But I’ll get to that later.
First up on this three-tracker is My Fictions’ own ‘You Never Stay’. A brilliant burst of hardcore noise that starts hard and maintains the intensity. My Fictions absolutely shred. It’s unrelenting, bordering on the grotesque – A living reminder that the raw and the furious are forever at the heart of hardcore.
With My Fictions having set the bar so high all the pressure is on The Saddest Landscape to keep to such a high standard. Or at least the pressure may have been on if they hadn’t hit the mark within the first second of ‘Loss Will Find Us’. Coming to life like a shot before twisting through varying degrees of desperation from the intensely chaotic to slow, breathless builds. At times it could be jarring. Truth be told, ‘Loss Will Find Us’ does legitimately appear to operate as two songs rather than the one it claims to be. That being the case though, I’d just consider it more bang for your buck. One song or two, The Saddest Landscape bring the big guns to this one.
This isn’t a bad LP, the recording is of a good quality, the vocalist suits the style of music superbly, with what is of a very similar style to the lead singer of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. All the band members are tight together too, and show great competence on their respective instruments. Personally though, for me, I find it all just a little bit exhausting. Don’t let me take anything away from what is a decent enough LP, I just reckon if I put all the songs together without a 2 second break in between, I couldn’t tell you the ending of ‘Crashing’ and the beginning of ‘Worrywart’. The phrase ‘seamless compositions’ used in the bands bio really backs up what I’m trying to point out. Ironic?
However, there are flashes of real musical intelligence and there is no doubt that there are a few catchy hooks lying around, most of which are thrust in your face whether you like it or not. ‘Spin This To Win This’ is one such example. I imagine many a mosh pit and spillage of blood will occur when people hear it live.
Less Than Jake is a punk/ska band and ‘See The Light’ is their ninth effort spanning their 20-year career. Less Than Jake are a powerhouse in their own accord and have been top of their tier for a long time but have kept themselves grounded with their roots and consistent with their sound, ‘See The Light’ showcases this perfectly.
Upon hearing the saxophone in the first bar of ‘Good Enough’, the memories of high school and listening to 'Hello Rockview' came flowing back in a hail of nostalgia, with tracks such as ‘Last One Out Of Liberty City’ and ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ respectively. ‘Do The Math’ has quirky riffs with more stripped down slower passages that still manage to keep up with the fast paced songs throughout.
‘Jump’ is another strong track with punchy drumming, awesome groove and one of the catchiest choruses this side of 2013. ‘American Idle’ is one of heaviest tracks on the album and lyrically focuses on not forgetting old memories and beginnings, and while still keeping to the happy vibes on the album, masks the darker themes with hooks and catchy sing along vocals.
THIS IS A RECORD OF A CONVERSATION THAT TOOK PLACE BETWEEN THE CRITIC (TC) AND THE VOICE OF REASON (VoR).
VoR: Oh hey Critic, I didn’t realise you were sleeping. Sorry, I’ll come back later.
TC: Oh, hi Voice. No, it’s fine, I must’ve just drifted off listening to this new Ma Jolie record.
VoR: Ironically, that’s what I came here to talk to you about. You don’t like it then, I take it?
TC: *rubs sleep from bleary eyes* I don’t think it’s a matter of “liking” or “disliking” this record. I don’t think I can even bring myself to “anything” it.
VoR: What’s wrong with this album then?
TC: It’s a gruff-punk record. Need I say more?
VoR: Probably, yeah.
TC: I just don’t understand the appeal of this genre in the slightest. It’s just so utterly bland and characterless. Nothing about it is beautiful. Nothing about it is exhilarating. It just happens and nobody feels better for the experience.
VoR: Wow, strong words Critic. This is clearly a popular genre though - The Menzingers topped year-end album lists in 2012 left, right and centre and Gnarwolves have become the most popular underground punk band in Britain from playing this style.
TC: Just because something’s popular, doesn’t make it good. Crazy Frog had a number one single.
VoR: You’re kind of a dick, Critic.
TC: Yeah, I know. But seriously, I wish this genre made me feel something other than nothing. I wish I could get excited by music so artless, so I could give this band a nice review and everyone can get on with their day. I wish, I wish…I wish I hadn’t been given this to review this week.
VoR: Hey, c’mon, cheer up Critic, there are worse things out there. Now, tell me what it is you specifically dislike about 'Polars', Maybe I can help you get through this irrational hatred.
TC: Has this gimmick review turned into gruff-punk counselling now?
VoR: Think of it as more of a self-help session.
50% of my chromosomes originate from West London, the other half from an obscure village of winemakers in the middle of alpine Switzerland. The point I’m getting to is that my unusual combo of cultural heritage doesn’t encompass country music as that distinctive style that reminds me of home. Instead, I get garage and Alphorn. Yet I can never keep myself from thinking of a warm spot back home whenever I’m confronted with a great country song. There’s an ingrained nostalgia for somewhere precious and safe that I never fail to be overwhelmed by. My description gets a little thin at this point because Northcote is not a country-singer per se, but he successfully channels that same mystical power, that pleasurable coerciveness, to make people yearn for wherever they call home.
Northcote represents the combined effort of one man’s spine-tingling warm tones and his acoustic guitar (as well as a delightful cast of tasteful full-band additions). Together they have given birth to what should be legally enforced as the year’s official friends-and-a-fireplace album. It felt incredibly wrong to listen to this batch of great songs while not sitting on a rocking chair in an isolated, creaky yet secure, cabin amidst a crisscross of pines and snowflakes. The focal point, from the album’s opening to its last notes, is Goud’s great tenor presence. When the quality occasionally drops (for reasons of repetitiveness more than lesser songwriting), his warm and hearty voice is always on top of things, keeping the track afloat.
Just over a year on from the release of debut EP ‘Strength vs. Will’, Boston quintet Save Ends are getting ready to launch their inaugural full-length record. Their laid back pop-punk sound has won over plenty of new fans in the interim, including plenty of us at Already Heard. It’s not for nothing that they found their way into a “Recommends” feature at the end of last month, and our must-hear November releases rundown the very next day, for this very album. Now, with the record finally out it’s time to throw the curtains wide and see if the wait for ‘Warm Hearts, Cold Hands’ has been worth it, or if the hype surrounding the Massachusetts five-piece will end up faltering.
There’s little to worry about however, as the state that has delivered Dropkick Murphys, Pixies and Bang Camaro to the world is not about to throw up a damp squib. Opening track ‘PunkORama 30’ takes its time in getting out of the gates, easing the album into life rather than have the band throw all their cards in at the very start. The minute-long intro leads into a resounding opener that boasts one of the album’s best choruses and builds its way up to it in a pounding fashion. Vocals are handled in tandem between pianist Brendan Cahill and guitarist Christine Atturio, and back and forth verses are juggled with well-executed harmonies as the two singers exchange lead and backing duties as the album continues into ‘We Are the Only Ones’ and ‘A Life They Wrote’. Lyrically, ‘A Life They Wrote’ is a standout track and it leads into ‘Same Old Dice’ which is one of the record’s punchier, more dance-inducing efforts. If not for ‘PunkORama 30’ then ‘Always Knew’ would clock in as the album’s shortest track, but it’s time well spent and as the record nears its half-way point, there is very little to fault in what is best summed up as simple but effective, easy listening pop-punk. It might be the wrong time of year for an album that feels a better fit for a hotter season, but there is definite cause for their consistent placing in categories with the likes of Lemuria and The Get Up Kids, each of whom have spent years honing themselves into icons in America’s emo/indie rock scenes. The likelihood is that Save Ends will be right there alongside them some day. There may be some polishing to do until then, but with ‘Warm Hearts, Cold Hands’ delivering pretty much all you could ask for from a debut album, such a future may not be too distant at all.