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The Sheffield connection is difficult to ignore when it comes down to High Hazels; it’s pertinent to recognise when a city has had a fundamental influence in sculpting the sound of a band. From the first listen, an obvious influence on the four-piece is Alex Turner’s motley band of international superstars, Arctic Monkeys. They’re another group who’ve started with a sure-fire underground fan base in the city and has moved out to bring the kind of Midlands but wannabe Northerner vibe to the rest of the UK.
One thing is for sure when listening to ‘High Hazels’: they pull off the everyman sound that has made Arctic Monkeys so accessible far better than Jake Bugg. It sounds genuine and unforced throughout from the opening strums of ‘Valencia’, to strolling along ‘The Promenade’ (a TGTF MP3 of the Day last week) at the album’s crescendo. High Hazels have missed a trick releasing this album at the end of October though. It’s screaming out to be enjoyed in the parks and beaches of Brighton or London: it’s got a distinctly summery feeling and listening to it as the back-end of a hurricane sweeps in alongside torrents of rain doesn’t whet my appetite as much as it could have in the beautiful Indian summer we’ve just enjoyed. Yes, the record does feel slightly dreamy and surf poppy, but that’s by the by.
‘How Long’s It Gonna Be’ is a tribute to some of the fantastic songwriting on the band’s debut effort, while ‘Hanging Moon’ is a slow-burning bastion of the toe-tapping goodness this album encapsulates throughout. The album finishes with ‘The Promenade’, where frontman James Leesley sings of how “we fell into a very bad dream”, possibly induced by the terrific dream pop stylings on lead single ‘Misbehave’ earlier in the album.
One slight criticism of ‘Misbehave’, is how much it reminds me of the advert for Mattesons Fridge Raiders where everyone in the world turns into the Shadows’ Hank Marvin. I mean, come on! That riff is so Hank Marvin. Barring that, it’s a complete pop banger that should be getting some primetime air on Radio 1, but is instead probably relegated to the B-list behind that buffoon Jason Derulo.
Indisputably, the band has its lyrical high point on ‘Shy Tide’, as Leesley laments, “don’t you dare tell me that I owe you everything”. It probably shows the band at their most emotional nand tormented, which probably isn’t too bad seeing as the album makes me feel as sunny as a summer holiday in Greece lounging by the pool in some discount speedos. That dark, disturbing image aside, the debut effort by this next band of Sheffielders to take their whack at the big time is a formidable effort, chocked to the brimful of bouncy choruses and toe-tappingly splendid riffs.
The self-titled debut album from High Hazels is out now on Heist or Hit Records. The quartet have just begun a UK tour this week.
First up: ‘My Heart is Pumping to a Brand New Beat’.
Second on the bill: ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’.
Who said indie kids were just a bunch of sweaty lads and ladies with greasy hair shouting about their heartbreaks? The archetypal ‘Girls & Boys’ of indie rock ‘n’ roll, The Subways have released their second single in the run-up to the release of their self-titled new album out in February 2015, and they’ve stuck to the tried and tested formula which has made them popular up to now.
They’re not experimenting, and I think that should at least be lauded. The three-piece have a distinct mid-’90s DIY indie-punk vibe about them, and they’re bloody good at making rowdy, simple songs which clock in at just less than 3 minutes. In ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’, Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper’s vocals weave through the verses, with a toe-tappingly melodic chorus of the song’s title interjecting.
It probably sounds like more of a throwback to the earliest phases of the band due to the fact this single was borne from some “really old demos” in Billy Lunn’s words. The video mirrors this; it’s a subtle nod to where the band has come from, moving away from the sheened production of songs like ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and back to the DIY-esque grit and edge that in 2005 made ‘Rock & Roll Queen’ such a huge indie disco hit – and why it’s still blasted out at a Propaganda near you.
‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’ is underscored by the energy that has driven this band through the last 14 years of releases and relentless touring. While the single isn’t exactly a progression, who gives a flying fuck. They’re good at what they do, and who’s to stop them from continuing.
The Subways’ newest single ‘I’m in Love And It’s Burning My Soul’ is out now on YFE Records/ Cooking Vinyl. The band’s eponymous fourth album ‘The Subways’ will be released on the 9th of February 2015.
At a time when the term apathy is almost an outlawed word in Scotland, it’s ironic that an album by a band from north of Hadrian’s Wall inspires an overwhelmingly apathetic feeling within me. From the beginning of We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ third outing ‘Unravelling’ – barring sparse sections of the record – all I could think was what else I could be doing rather than listen to this record.
Maybe I’ll listen to the new We Are the Ocean song ‘ARK’. That’s been buzzing around my head nicely for a while. Or perhaps I’ll try and write a feature piece on that BBC Music cover creation of ‘God Only Knows’, to delve into the madness where they put Dave Grohl in the same vein as (definition of flash in the pan) Sam Smith. Or perhaps I’ll listen to that 30-second snippet of the new Foo Fighters album in the documentary promo.
For me, those thoughts gave the underlying impression of an album that failed to do what I demand from music. It neither grabbed me, nor did it take me on a journey, nor did it inspire any poignant emotion within me – barring apathy – if that can be classified as a discernable emotion. I didn’t feel it was truly experimental either; there was nothing which jumped out and grabbed me and made me think, nobody else is doing that at the moment.
The record truly just doesn’t get going until quarter of an hour in, despite flecks of promise at the end of LP opener ‘Safety in Numbers’. ‘Night Terror’ at least had enough about to wake me from the faux-slumber I drifted into at the top of the album. Perhaps I was expecting too much? But when the NME call their second album “Punchy, literate guitar music”, I expect a bit of punch before around 25 minutes into the blooming thing. ‘A Part of It’ starts off with a bit of bite and vigour, almost enough to nudge me awake from my stasis.
From the brilliantly angst-ridden breakout record of ‘These Four Walls’, We Were Promised Jetpacks showed a great promise in the brilliantly honest songwriting that underpinned the power of their debut outing. Despite their being an almost overwhelming sense of anxiety throughout ‘Unravelling’, this album just doesn’t hit the emotional highs and lows that predecessors have found the note on. As far as British post-rock is going, the group looked certain to push their way to the forefront, but this album despite having all the sheen of a brilliant production and some slick guitar work just feels a little underwhelming.
I just thought a band with the word ‘jetpacks’ in the title may be a little more exciting with maturity, but even after ‘Unravelling’, I still think we’re waiting for lift-off.
Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ third album ‘Unravelling’ is out now on FatCat Records. Read Mary’s review of previous single ‘I Keep It Composed’ here.
When I first heard that the band that makes me weep in this awesomeness were planning a concept record, I was fearful. Were they going to go full Muse on ‘The Resistance’ and forget what made them the accessible, fucking amazing group they are now? I felt a bit queasy in that place in your tummy that goes all squirty when your boss calls you into the office with THAT look on their face… The undoubtable feeling that this could go completely arse over face…
As the build-up towards Foo Fighters’ return gathered traction, I became more and more nervous. Numerous octogenarian musicians were wheeled out for amazing cover songs. Dave and co. haven’t lost IT, but I was still feeling that sense of foreboding about the record. They hadn’t lost IT, but they may have lost their minds, retreated up their own arses and made one of those concept records which bands who have done so well tend to do when they get to this stage, Muse’s ‘The 2nd Law’ as the prime example (I’m really giving Muse a hammering lately and I love Muse. Sorry, Muse).
20:50 last Thursday night, Zane Lowe had been tickling and teasing with clips from an interview with Grohl, Shiflett, Mendel, Smear and Hawkins, and on came and the opening chords of ‘Something From Nothing’, the first track on upcoming release ‘Sonic Highways’ came on. At that point, I sighed a neurosis releasing breath of relief – the man Grohl was back, and he had in fact NOT disappeared up his own arse.
We’ve got Wayne’s World-esque guitar solos and it goes full DIY with a honky-tonk funkadelic groove. And finally, we’re furnished with the Grohl yell, “FUCK IT ALL I CAME FROM NOTHING! I’M SOMETHING FROM NOTHING / YOU ARE MY FUSE!”
It’s classic Foo all over. Whilst it isn’t a departure from the DIY sound which made ‘Wasting Light’ such a success, the song has the fundamentals of any Foo songs and is underpinned by a huge, fist-pumping chorus.
Now, the theory of an album made from stories gathered on an enormous musical road trip across the USA is an intriguing one. The sounds of the States have trickled through modern music and changed it at its very core, whether its the punk scene of Seattle or jazz and blues in New Orleans. Whether putting them together in eight songs will actually make a decent album is the question we’re still waiting for the answer for… But already the signs are looking good.
It’s a strange world we live in. Men with beards that would only years ago have seen them immediately signed to the social security register as homeless are now the ultimate female lure. You can say the word ‘crap’ on the radio and not be bombarded by a swarm of angry middle-aged mothers, intent on sketching you out as one of Satan’s most loyal and dastardly companions. It’s an age where NME have declared for the umpteenth year running, this is the year of the Great British Guitar Revolution. Oh, and have they mentioned it’s spearheaded by some dour youths from Brighton with increasingly gash haircuts?
It’s a frightening state of affairs – one in which a band is only entitled to be cool and ‘hip’ (people still use the word hip, right?) if they open their album with an intro track. Yes, we all love Foals and alt-J and we all want to be Yannis Philippakis, but how hard can every intro track get fucked? Just get on with it, for the love of god.
But when noodling intros, which could be the b-side from a cassette you bought of a whale song to help you get to sleep are regarded – not as an optional extra – but as an unmissable dollop of hyperclichéd goodness. Enter Lower Than Atlantis with an album that can help you forget this bizarre world arrayed in front of you. An album which, if the Mercury Music Prize was taken seriously anymore by the people who select the nominees, would have already been announced as the winner of the prize in 2015. Fo’ real.
What Mike Duce and his Watford based comrades Ben Sansom, Eddy Thrower and Dec Hart have achieved is an album to not just announce this band on the world stage, but to scream it naked from the rooftops, waving its collective cock from side to side maniacally, saying ‘pay attention to us, we’re not going away’. Quite a publicity stunt that would be, but flaccid, flapping cocks aside, LTA’s self-titled fourth album is the record they will be remembered for.
Immediately, opening single ‘Here We Go’ feels like it clocks in at around the length of a full album. Simply because of the amount of times you will end up pressing the repeat button. With a chorus as colossal as the Titan of Braavos and lyrics effectively spelling out the path this band are currently travelling on: “now, we’re raging on like a locomotive / shout, we’re coming through / we’re heading for ya / we are above all of the commotion / we are on track so get back behind us.”
The emphatically catchy choruses don’t stop there: the entire album is a catalogue in how to write a bonafide alternative rock banger, with tune after tune on the record having instant repeatability. So much so, that it’ll likely take you an age to get through the album as each track has its unique facets to get your head around. The rhythmic ‘90s-esque drum beat of ‘Stays the Same’, punctuated by Duce’s indomitable vocals, is a particular standout.
The most confusing and arguably triumphant feature of ‘Lower Than Atlantis’ is ‘Criminal’, where the band go full Matt Bellamy on acid conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. At times it feels like a sample from ‘The 2nd Law’, as Mike Duce gets increasingly angst ridden and begins to yell, “yes, sir, we’re gonna get some action / you distract ‘em and I will attack them.” Yes, it’s as mad as it sounds, but it’s spectacularly mad at the same point, making for completely compelling listening. It’s stadium ready rock; the savvy song writing of ‘Changing Tune’ show Lower Than Atlantis have found their niche and have hammered home their point to devastating effect.
They do the grandiose and the massive incredibly well, while also showing in the opening chords of ‘Just What You Need’ Duce and co. That they’re capable of the understated. The brilliantly built ‘Time’ is such a simple construction but with the introduction of some new voices, it becomes a layered far more textured piece of songwriting.
Lower Than Atlantis prove on this record they’re similar to Shrek.
Bear with me…
They’re a beast with layers, possessing the ability to slam out tracks that sound like they were penned to serenade mass crowds at Wembley, until you peel back the layers when they show they’re capable of songwriting that could pluck the tightest of heartstrings. They can produce a pop banger like ‘Emily’, which feels like it could almost be inspired by Busted, and then they burst in with an unquestionably huge tune like ‘Damn Nation’. Bursting at the brims with every alternative rock cliché you can ask for, “live life / love life / while I’m alive I only got one chance this time / that is do or die.” There’s not a track on here which doesn’t jump out and you and demand you take notice and that’s why ‘Lower Than Atlantis’ is unquestionably my Album of the Year.
Well, at least until ‘Sonic Highways’…we’ll see.
Lower Than Atlantis’ self-titled fourth album is out next Monday, the 6th of October, on Sony Red / Easy Life. Watch Lower Than Atlantis‘ pseudo video for ‘Emily’ below.
If there was ever a track which could mellow out an earth shuddering headache, you’d probably drift towards ‘Pissing Neon’ by Casual Sex. Despite immediately conjuring up a wrecked stoner pissing rainbows, it’s a chilled out as your nan after she’s completed her favourite crossword puzzle – ya know, when you see her with that smile on her face. Good, we’re at the right place.
Drawing heavily from the influences of ‘90s, disco this double A-side Sam Smith, Ed Wood, Peter Masson and Chris McCrory have crafted a beautiful soundscape which borders on trip-hop. Oh, and to dispel any confusion – no, he has no relation to that cretin Sam Smith who shares his name, is all over the ol’ wireless like a venereal infection and who inexplicably looks set to write a Bond theme. More on that later.
The metronomic intro of ‘A Perfect Storm’ (see stream at the bottom of this post) feels like the start of a retro video game, until Smith cuts in with his nasal heavy vocals – ever syllable dripping with smarm: “it’s a ruse / it’s a ruuuuuussseee.”
The harpischord-esque jangling guitar brings the song along at a skipping pace. It’s almost the kind of track you’d expect on in the background as someone from The Simpsons or Family Guy took acid and became a hippy. The production is sublime and each part compliments the other in beautiful symbiosis.
A full length offering soon would be nice sooner rather than later to capitalise on the sheer level of hype this record will produce.
Casual Sex‘s forthcoming single ‘A Perfect Storm’ / ‘Pissing Neon’ will be released next Monday, the 6th of October, on We Can Still Picnic Records on limited edition 7″ vinyl and digital download. Stream ‘A Perfect Storm’ below.
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