Now there’s no secret I love myself some angry music here on HigherPlainMusic and EndAnd certainly have me covered! A three piece from NYC, they have plenty of shout about and do so in their noisy grungy punk rocking way. I love the little flairs and embellishments throughout the track “Commando” and HPM will be reviewing their latest release very soon.
Aside from having a pretty cool name, Monks of Mellonwah have a crisp and slick rock edge and high production values. They fall into the category of tidy rock for me, where each riff has its place perfected into the music, ala Chilli Peppers but with a bit more grunt.
Here’s the great video for “Neverending Spirit” which should help them break out of Australia. We will be reviewing their 2012 EP shortly in anticipation for their new record coming out on Bandcamp soon.
My Woshin Mashin (great name) are a wonderfully eccentric band from Russia and Germany that resemble The Knife possibly as their closest ancestors but they are quite unique because the bounce from genre to genre at the drop of a beat.
Here’s a darkly delicious cover of Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us” showing their quieter side, but they more often than not go into a ferocious mess instead! Their second album came out last week and is called “Evil Must Die”
Cloudi Lewis are a warm and luscious band from the UK and have just released an EP which frankly – has an awesome title.
Aside from that, the music is rather good too. Opener “Rambling” starts off their acoustic folksy rock with some big bass drums and happy claps as the initially country-style guitar subdues into a more spacial folk music. The way the instruments are mixed makes the choruses and bridges feel warm and inviting and they sound evenly split so nothing pushes forward. That way the music envelopes you instead of punches you. The female lead singer has some real chops on her too! “Like This” is more whimsy and reflective than its preprocessor and is daring enough to actually leave silence in its chorus. It’s a sign of a band that’s confident and sure of their sound. The track itself is beautifully put together and is a camp fire starlet in waiting.
“The Woods” takes things down to very slow 6 step waltzing verse before the choruses step up the tempo and the beat kicks into a more usual 4/4. I love that there is such a marked shift in sound, pace and feel between the two.”Ego” too has a wonderfully loose beat to it as the rage comes and slithers away from the track itself. It’s as if the entire band is connected on a trail of string because as soon as the vocals or guitar break from their pretty-in-the-breakdown sound the bass and cymbals saw into your ears too. It’s subtle but it’s so very good. The closing track is “White Dress” which is a live track. It has some absolutely sublime guitar finger work which wraps itself around the equally beautiful and delicate vocal delivery of Cloudi Lewis.
Put simply, this is a wonderful way to introduce you to a new band whom I hope go places and do marvellous things. Higher Plain Music will certainly be cheering them on! Welcome to Cloudy Lewis.
Mortar and Pestle have been on my radar since earlier this year and their latest single “Pristine Dream” confirms I’m excited for their new EP which comes out next Tuesday (7th May). You can listen to the lead single from the six track EP below:
Given to me as a recommendation I went into Feeding People utterly cold without hearing so much of a chord. How did I leave the album at the end? Cosy and warm!
Feeding People’s album Island Universe opens with “Mountain Song” and it introduces you to two things that distinguish them. Firstly you’ll hear that the guitar and the flow of the drums have a fluidity to them that makes it feel more milky than a lot of other rock bands. Secondly the vocals have a real meshing of reverbs over them that brings the music further into the realms of psychedelia. This is further enhanced by the orgasmic “Uranium Sea” that has a wonderful bridge that explodes into a manic finale and has plenty of draw organs freaking out over a rock band clearly intent on moshing their-selves into the darkness. ”Insane” decides to mix up the tempos whilst the lead vocals become almost PJ Harvey-esque as the drowning reverb is taken away and we have a powerful voice unveiled. By the end of the track I wanted to have a multicoloured swirling circle before my eyes to be hypnotised under. Fantastic!
“Cat Song” is the first breath the album takes for a wonderfully irrelevant four minutes of acoustic guitar, flute and ad-libs before “Inside Voices” brings us back to tempo changing, discordant guitar mashing. “Silent Violent” literally takes the song title and transcribes it to noise. The verses are beautiful guitar piques and angelic tinkle only for it to explode into heavy chugging and tom drums for the choruses. While the songs are mini anthems in a way they straddle an unusual line of half hooks / half smashing up the stage.
“Big Mother” is a short rock track and is about as standard as the album gets before “Desert Song” takes a simple Arabian inspired riff and turns it into a slinky snake of a rock track. Again, this is probably the most radio friendly track on the album so newbies start here! “Red Queen” reminds me so much of T-Rex. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the production and the way the guitar rhythm sits on the track to push it forward. It certainly gets you going.
Title track “Island Universe” is completely different to the rest of the album. The guitar playfully makes a Hawaiian styled riff that slowly is added to whilst the vocals chirp to the clumsy drums and organs. It feels like a party wrap. However we’ve still two to go. “Each His Own” puts the guitar through a really cool synthesizer that makes a metallic buzzing and phasing sound. It gives the song a sound of its own and transforms a simple riff into something bigger than its parts. The closing track is funnily enough called “Closer” and its a real lighter swayer (or mobile light swayer).
So “Island Universe” is an album that harks way back to the early 70′s in many ways. There’s some really interesting care free moments and some genius decisions. I’m impressed and certainly will be looking out for more.
Dead Can Dance have been touring for a while and I have my tickets ready for the 2nd of July to see them. I erred and wondered over getting the album of the tour prior to seeing them live but in many ways I’m glad I have. It’s a great way to sample how this tour sounds live but has also grounded me from feeling a twinge of disappointment too.
The entire album of Anastasis is included on In Concert and each song sounds nigh on identical to the album versions. “Kiko” feels a bit faster, as do a few of the tracks, but in the main they sound identical – apart from the vocals. Brendan’s vocals in general sound excellent while Lisa’s sound slightly weaker in volume than she has done in previous years. There’s no frenzy ala “Cantara” from “Towards the Within”. There are vague flashes of it for a few seconds but it felt like she needed to be turned up a bit in the mix!
Aside from the Anastasis tracks we have faithful versions of “Rakim”, “Sanvean”, “Nierika” and “Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove” the latter of which sounds like it fits the new album perfectly. There’s a good version of the unreleased outside of a live CV “Dreams Made Flesh” which is a fantastic Lisa/Dulcimer track that is a personal favourite too. “The Host of Seraphim” is given a slightly different tone because Brendan provides a lot of low harmonies and drones to the music. There is also throughout the concert a third female vocalist whom provides a lot of backing vocals but here she helps fill up the speakers with a great tonal range.
That leaves two previously unheard tracks. Brendan leads on them both. “Song to the Siren” frankly sounds a bit ropey and its partly due to the vocal delivery and partly due to harsh reverb that’s placed onto the vocal itself. It pales in comparison to Elizabeth Frasier and its a difficult thing to say but it’s unavoidable because Elizabeth and Lisa stand together in many ways. However “Lamma Badda” is an excellent playful track. Mixing keyboards, a Moorish beat and Eastern guitar it weaves something quite ancient and wondrous.
Whilst it’s not quite reaching the dizzy heights of “Towards the Within”, “In Concert” showcases a powerful duo whom make some amazing timeless music. A good entry point for the band and enough to keep fans happy for more.
So if we must have a boyband take over the world it may as well be a boyband that’s actually talented, that writes their own music, edits and directs videos, does everything themselves and genuinely seem like old round top dudes… right?
Go on then – here’s Take Me To The Pilot whom I found during the first sunny weekend in the UK this year. Suddenly Spring clicked into place. I feel 14 all over again. It’s about time we had some good cheery pop-rock take the charts isn’t it!
I’d never knowing heard of a song from British Sea Power until my awesome partner took me along to see them live Wednesday at Shepard’s Bush. I must admit, I’m a picky so-and-so when it comes to music. Two artists could sing the same song near on identical and I’d probably adore one far more than the other. Rock is one of those genres that I love but I can also switch off if it just doesn’t grab me. I’ll be honest – when British Sea Power came out for their acoustic opening set I struggled. The vocals were a bit wobbly and the songs slightly in no mans land. Then Toy came on and refused to budge from playing the same singular chord in a supposed musical orgasm for literally twenty-five minutes. I was bored with that and I thought I was in for the long haul….
Then British Sea Power came out for their main set… and it was fantastic.
If I’m honest, I have no idea what many of the song titles were but my general observations were that they are a rock band whom enjoy themselves immensely on stage and it fed through to everyone in the audience. Most tracks had a certain twist on something. Be it a trumpet playing along with the guitar, the violin padding out the synths or the two lead vocalists belting it out. The secondary vocalist that seemed very exposed in the acoustic set fitted in perfectly when it all went plugged. Some people just have a voice that even if it’s not the strongest, lends itself well to a certain sound and here he shone. There weren’t massive numbers all the way through but each song held an atmosphere that I really tapped into. A big shout out to the visuals behind the band too. Zippy sock puppets, evil dolls and on stage polar bear costumes having a fight with the band – you were always entertained.
I’ll leave you with a few clips from the evening from other people’s footage. I’m looking forward to discovering more about the band in the future…
Dead Can Dance have their live album from their reunion Anastasis tour ready for release on the 22nd April but you can stream it now from rolling stone. HPM will be reviewing the album once its arrived and HPM will also be going to the 2nd July date at The Roundhouse in London. Excitement is not the word!
Stream the album in full here
I normally cannot stand Jazz and along with rap, they remain the two genres I can happily leave any day of the week – however even I can tell a fantastic musical artist in those genres – especially when I can listen to it! Welcome Nat Osborn with your band – you may finally have given me entry point for jazzy music at long last. I can’t give a higher compliment than that!
The new album “The King and the Clown” is out Tuesday.
Kovak return with a new synth-pop rock stonker “Radiate” which continues to mark them as a clever band for the future. Such a great mish-mash of different influences.
Mortar and Pestle are a wonderfully mixed up trio from Oakland, USA and have their debut EP coming out in May. They remind me very much of a deeper more complex Freezepop with some mighty fine chops on the vocals!
The preview track of the upcoming EP is “U.V.” which you can stream below:
The EP itself is much more synth-pop led than this more stripped down live version of the track “Fruits” but they rock either way you take them.
Golden Grrrls leave me in such a predicament. Have you ever heard an artist or a band that come across so sloppy and mumblecore happy that you’re not sure if it sounds terrible or actually like a piece of twisted genius for being able to miss any note that matters?
The problem doesn’t lie in the percussion nor the guitar or bass work. As openers “New Pop” and “Past Tense” showcase, the trio have a great penchant for writing quick, complex knitted together four chord melodies that work quite well. But then comes the singing….
There’s a male and female vocal and they bounce off each other on the same frequency level and do not even attempt to keep in tune. It’s like a drunken hi-school singalong. It’s not pretty and it feels too falsely “hip and cool”. It’s a shame as by “Paul Simon” on track 3 I’m thinking, these tunes sound so ramshackle in a good way but I can’t quite get into them for the mumbling that is mistaken for vocal delivery. Thankfully each song is short so the hippy rock “Think of the Way” where the vocalists try to overlap eachother properly is over quickly as it’s actually painful. “Older Today” is more bearable as the guitars overpower the vocals and no one tries anything obviously beyond them. “Take Your Time” has a late 80′s pop rock vibe where as “Time Goes Slow” shows hints of promise as the vocals get as close to in tune as they’ve been all record. “Wrld Peace” too isn’t as bad as you intially think either as the guitar riff leads the song excellently. It sadly falls back apart again for “Never Said Enough” whilst “Date It” ends up sounding like a demo mix that’s slightly uncomfortable to the ear. Closer “We’ve Got…” then sums up every single problem I have with the album in two and half minutes.
So why am I torn? I think it’s because I can see so much potential there if the vocals just were vaguely in tune. The male vocals are worse than the females but there’s not much in it and it utterly ruins the vibe. I completely understand sloppy rock is the road that Golden Grrrls are taking but actually, some vocal effort would have made it worthwhile.
Stone Temple Pilots have always been a huge favourite for me although they do go under a fair few people’s radar. I’d never really seen or heard them live so was eager to pick up the live DVD when I finally noticed it was out.
The 78 minute concert features some of their best known tracks like “Vasoline”, “Interstate Love Song”, “Plush” and “Sex Type Thing” and if I’m honest, they don’t sound terribly different from their studio counterparts. This is a testament to the playing of the entire band. The guitar, bass and percussion hit the spot on every track and you’d barely notice the different if it weren’t for a few drum roll endings. Possibly the only song that sounds different is “Lounge Fly” with added vocals although having the keyboard loop in the background means it doesn’t stray too far from the original.
One place where things are different are the vocals. Scott uses some different inflections to some of the tracks and really pubs it up on others. There’s a slightly distracting effect of the microphone where it almost sounds that on a couple of the tracks there’s a duelling singer behind him. That effect seems to fade away for the second half.
For their excellent playing skills, they can also hold a crowd captive and are interesting to watch but as the performance doesn’t push much from the studio albums, this is a real fan concert and not for people who like things different from studio to live performance. The fan already knows that these songs are amazing – so only buy if you want to turn off all the lights and go nuts.
Speck Mountain are a psychedelic rock band from the USA and have just released their third album Badwater two weeks ago. If I were to give it a specific review tag I would call its spaciously unrushed.
Badwater is an album that is comfortable with letting each instrument breathe. The percussion on each track is crystal clear to the point where each cymbal tap can be heard. The guitar has that shimmering effect and the vocals have a deep, laid back lazy breeze tonal quality that will either make you slump back and chill out or make you indifferent to what’s coming at you. “Caught Up” certainly doesn’t sound fraught or dramatic and “Flares” only add some warm keyboard synths as things start to warm up although the later track is much more catchier. “Slow So Long” breaks things down to a more quieter darkened state and its here where all the elements of the band come together better. Low key organs and guitar plucks that are allowed to echo into submission give a smokey afternoon feel. Suddenly the vocals fit perfectly and the production makes perfect sense. It’s a real stand out for the album.
“Coldpoint” goes out of its way to jar you with its abstract drum patterns initially before coming together in a hazy instrumental. The guitar work is excellent as the mellowness gradually seeps into you and calms you down. It’s when things start to want to become more formative that the elements again don’t quite hold together as well. Title track “Badwater” is at odds with itself where the drums are both harsh (snares) and subtle (cymbals) but the guitar is so glistening in juiciness you want to yum it up. It just doesn’t quite fall perfectly into either category and whilst I can appreciate that actually, that’s quite a unique trait, I struggled to work a way into it until the track gets more populated. “Young Eyes” pulls back to the sombre damp side of Speck Mountain’s music and things click again.
Almost as if someone noticed the production of the percussion and bass weren’t quite fitting the rest of the music “Live It Down” and the following two tracks suddenly sounds utterly different. The percussion is brought right forward to the front of the mix and everything is made more sparse. The vocals feel more alive and the track absolutely works. It’s the best track on the album and stands tall above everything else present. “No Words” follows it up has more guitar in the mix and is like a party comedown wrapped in yesterdays beer bottles. It has that slow motion vibe down to a tee. The closing track is the six and half minute “Watch The Storm” with is a hazy rock chillout with a great organ bridge and some soul to it.
Badwater is a strange beast. Awkwardly straddling itself in production choices, it’s at odds with itself and where there’s little in the way of immediate hooks, the production choices seem all the more visible because its what holds this type of music together. The feel of the final three tracks is completely different and suddenly the album improves leaps and bounds but when the music goes out of its way to feel indifferent and chugging, I struggle to feel anything but indifferent about it too.
It’s not often that I comment on a bands fans but I feel that I need to before I dive into the review od Faun’s latest album. Faun is a band that recently has undergone various line-up changes with its Neo-Folk sound and now their sixth album see’s them sign with Universal – a huge coup for the band. With a large signing comes a slightly streamlined record. Anyone whom thought this wouldn’t happen is absolutely crazy. Outside their ardent fanbase no one knows the band and this album in many ways acts as an introduction to the wonderful world of Faun. It is a shame that “fans” see it fit to rip the band to shreds over this – especially when the quality of music is still vastly superior to what most bands are churning out in this field.
So it comes then, as no surprise that “Von den Elben” is a more streamlined, less deviant album that its various predecessors. For better and for some for worse. It’s certainly no sell out however and is jammed with quality tracks. Opening with “Mit dem Wind” you can hear a much cleaner, crisper sound. Things are brighter, tighter and polished. Faun have also spent the album gearing themselves towards a more pub folk effort which see’s the band pushing rowdy choruses and more direct melodies. “Diese Kalte Nacht” the single pushes the more electronic beats to the fore with a slow but deep bass drum section over the usual bagpipes and beautiful vocal melodies. Say what you will about their changing line-up, the vocals are always sublime. It’s also great to hear the harp get its moment in the sun too. Title track “Von den Elben” takes things back to the melodic harp and flute melodies of old with a gorgeous wistful track that is as timeless as the tide.
“Tanz Mit Mir” is the first track that really homes in the newer country pub influence. It’s the raspy male vocals that bring this home along with the sheer energy of the whole track as a whole. The call and response of male and female vocals works a treat and you can almost hear a Eurovision twang to it. “Schrei es in die Winde” is an absolutely stonking track though with a rousing chorus and pounding beat. I love how Faun can make a melody based on constantly meandering notes that never sit still. It’s as close to rock that Faun have dared to go to and I love the results. “Wilde Rose” is a beautiful militant track drenched in vocal harmonies that are all soft and warm but come together in a powerful way for the choruses whilst “Wenn wir use Wierdersehen” uses its lack of bass to really produce a top end pacey track full of woodwind and light vocals. Whenever that kind of production is used it always gives things a slightly more emotive vibe and it pulls through here.
“Bring mich nach Haus” has a very Irish feel to it with its final chorus and outro going up a note for effect. Even the slower tracks have a certain gusto to them – there’s little wallowing in this album. One place where things are damp however is “Welche Sprache sptricht dein Herz”. Here the minor keys pop out and things are kept downbeat and sombre for the first time all album. The downcast is then followed by a fan moment with “Andro II” which is a re-recording of Andro from “Licht” and is given an extended ethereal opening before blasting us with the awesome instrumental bagpipe jig.
“Minne Duet” returns to more raspy vocals and reminds me more of a swashbuckling track than the usual Faun music before the sumptuous “Thymian & Rosmarin” takes you over with the wonderous folksy guitars and duet vocals. If anything this is most Irish and mainstream to World music the band get to but it works beautifully. The album closer “Warte aur Mich” has an epic sway to its waltzing beat and closes the album out in mystical style.
Yes, it’s the most mainstream Faun have been to date in production value, song structure and general instrumentation. Does that make it a bad album? Certainly not. There’s a bounty of tracks to love and enjoy and that is the most important thing. The heart shines through.
Faun are one of my all time favourite bands that could well hit massive heights this year as their latest album came out Monday and it’s their first signed to a large label. Whilst I’ve watched with dismay at various “fans” shouting about the band selling out, I think it’s ludicrous to even state that an artist would not want to try and spread their music as far as possible. The single is “Diese Kalte Nacht” and I think it’s best we let the frankly awesome music do the talking. The album is to be reviewed next week.
Lines in The Sky are a trio from Nashville all aged 20 and under but rocking like they’ve been a complete band for decades. Their delivery and instrument prowess combined with music that sounds familiar but has a lot of complexity underneath is what makes them stand out as a band I’d like to keep an eye for the future. Here’s the music video to “Threads”:
“Feel It Break” is the opening album from trio Austra – a smooth minor key laden electronic group from America. You can hear things being borrowed from other places but it still sounds quite unique on its own front.
Opener “Darken Her House” is a stomp beat track that slowly builds from its gritty bass lines into a sultry melodic shimmering number. Lead singer Katie has a strange vocal delivery. It reminds me, if I’m being lazy, of Florence and the Machine, but there’s a lot more vibrato to it. “Lose It” showcases a more poppier tone with upbeat melodies despite the minor keys and some good twisting of vocals to provide catchy hooks. Katie when in full steam can really belt out a chorus though as things turn towards a Venus Hum tone. “The Future” is a strange fusion of cute childlike melodies wrapped around a more sophisticated overarching theme. “Beat and the Pulse” however goes straight for the jugular with a catchy motif, hard bass and pounding beat. It’s like the first couple of tracks try to purposely avoid this so we can finally feel unleashed here.
“Spellwork” is possibly my favourite track on the album. It’s got a witchy kookiness to it and it feels like a fully formed song, coupled with the equally fraught and catchy “The Choke” it feels like the album now really has hit its stride. The vocals are strong, the arrangements are full and evolving. The second half of The Choke is mesmerising. “Hate Crime” too is up on the better half of the album with some good use of cymbals to mix up the percussive edge of the song.
“The Villain” moves things into a more Fever Ray territory and this is where Katie’s vocals shine. They have a raw quality to them and suit a slightly detuned composition better than a straight up pop track. Austra work better when a song breaks. “Shoot The Water” has the excellent lyric “silence speaks for you” whilst the piano motif sounds like something from a Victoria Wood track with its clumsy comedy turn. “The Noise” is a fantastic track for its simplistic hook and call/response of the main chorus. and unusual chord choice. There’s no percussion either but you wouldn’t even notice. The closing track “The Beast” is a complete departure from everything else, a piano/vocal track with minimal input from anything else. It slowly evolves into a really spacious orgasmic finale. Strangely arousing and uplifting.
Austra’s “Feel It Break” is a strange beast. It doesn’t quite hook me in, yet with each listen I’m appreciating it a little more. It’s like the album gets better as you go through it too as the songs I’ve yet to really click with all seem to be at the front end of the album. I think the best way to describe it is if you fancy Florence and the Machines to have a baby with Zola Jesus and go down electro-pop – this is for you.