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Boys Again
Boys Again
Price: £7.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Boys Again is a perfect pop EP relishing in the sound of another decade, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Boys Again (Audio CD)
The four track EP marks a brilliant development from their early self-released stuff.

If I hadn’t known better, I’d thought I was listening to a release from the 80s rather than a contemporary band. From start to finish, the EP sounds like the music my parents would listen to when I was a child.

On Heartbeat Overdrive and Yaoi Rosie Blair’s voice isn’t far removed from the vocals of Cindy Lauper or even a young Madonna. Indeed, Heartbeat Overdrive could be a hit on the charts placed between Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Papa Don’t Preach.

Although the songs rely heavily on steady drum beats and of course the obligatory synths, the lyrics are clever pensive and occasionally convey a certain melancholy (Ghost Child).

Boys Again is a perfect pop EP relishing in the sound of another decade. Ballet School don’t add anything new to the equation but excel at reproducing something that their parents must have loved when they were young. If you’re into that type of sound, you can’t go wrong with Boys Again.

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Pine Trails
Pine Trails
Price: £13.29

3.0 out of 5 stars More of the same – but that same is really good and entertaining while it lasts, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Pine Trails (Audio CD)
Revealing their new single Campfire earlier this year, the band hailing from Oulu, Finland, headed straight to No.1 on the Hype Machine most blogged about artist chart. The previously released single is a fine example what Satellite Stories are all about. It begins with a delicately picked guitar and vocal introduction, before the band explodes into the track. The hugely catchy work sees the members blending vocal hooks, guitar stabs and a huge four-on-the-floor beat.

The lyrics on Pine Trails tell the usual stories of growing up, love lost and near misses. A recurring theme is a girl (or maybe a car, who knows) called Delorean, whom the singer reminisces about kissing by a Campfire and whom he is not willing to let go to Australia (Don’t Let Her Go).

With this type of pop music, lyrics are more of an appendage anyhow. At the heart of the record lies a thoroughly produced danceable pop sound that is melancholic at one moment and explodes all over the place the next.

The songs are neatly arranged and one song blends into the next. Sometimes they blend a little too much. Pine Trails doesn’t contain any particular highlights. All 10 songs have pretty much the same tempo and are written and performed according to the same proven pattern. The acoustic ballad Lorraine (could this be Delorean?) at the end of the album marks the exception from the rule. Unfortunately, the song falls flat with it’s naive lyrics (Lorraine is her name / and she lives far away in southern California / I’ll take the pain) and repetitive guitar strums. It feels more like a demo than something that should have left the studio at this point.

Satellite Stories do not aim to live up to the sophisticated pop albums released this year by Vampire Weekend or The 1975 but if you’re into Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix or Shout Out Louds you will love Satellite Stories. The Finnish four-piece plays music that is downright fun to listen and dance to. Little has changed in comparison to their first record. Pine Trails is essentially more of the same – but that same is really good and entertaining while it lasts.

indieisnotagenre.com


Wrist Slitter
Wrist Slitter
Price: £15.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Pryor is the type of musician that stays true to himself, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Wrist Slitter (Audio CD)
When I heard that Matt Pryor was working on a new solo album I half expected it to be an acoustic singer-songwriter kind of record. It seemed appropriate as many artists from the emo punk rock and hardcore scene have recently done just that rather successfully (Dave Hause, Chuck Regan, or City and Color). When this didn’t turn out to be the case I was rather relieved. While Wrist Slitter features some of those elements, As Perfect as We’ll Ever Be features just Matt’s vocals and an acoustic guitar, much of it sounds like it was a The Get Up Kids record. This is of course thanks to Matt’s unique vocals but also because the album features a full backing band and most of the songs are composed in mid-tempo and run under 3 minutes.

Opener The House Hears Everything sounds like a perfect Get Up Kids song. Following a rather lengthy brass band(!) intro, Matt’s anguished vocals can be heard over an upbeat pop rock song. Kinda Go To Pieces was previously released as a free download. It keeps up the pace initiated by the opener and features the angsty tongue in cheek lyrics I loved so much about The Get Up Kids.

The title track is more of an intermission really. It’s just over a minute long and consists of just Matt and a banjo. This probably is Matt Pryor at his folkiest. It’s also quite an upbeat and ironic song as Matt remarks: “I was prepared to write a very sad album, a wrist slitter, but this album ended up being the exact opposite of that.”

Before My Tongue Becomes A Sword is yet another highlight. It kicks off with guest vocals by Chris Conley (Saves The Day) and an acoustic guitar before the other instruments kick in and Matt takes over. The keyboards in particular reminded me of the Get Up Kid’s renowned Something To Write Home About record and pretty much everything by Motion City Soundtrack.

Of course, Matt Pryor isn’t the angry kid anymore who wrote Something To Write Home About. He’s an experienced musicians who still loves what he is doing. He seems to be a very down to earth kind of guy too, he still maintains his own Facebook page, shares much of his personal life with his fans and chose to release his album via an independent label rather than going major. On Wrist Slitter, he combines all the elements I love about The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams. There’s still the occasional angst moment in some of the faster songs (Kinda Fall To Pieces, Before My Tongue Becomes A Sword) and lyrical depth in the slower ones (So Many Questions, There Is No Us). Pryor is the type of musician that stays true to himself. He doesn’t aim at doing anything other than doing what he loves and he still excels at it.

indieisnotagenre.com


Open Your Mind E.P
Open Your Mind E.P

4.0 out of 5 stars There is something here for every lover of guitar music., 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Open Your Mind E.P (MP3 Download)
The EP consists of seven tracks of which one is the obligatory Interlude that serves as an introduction to Calling You. Policy is an obvious choice for an opener with its driven drum beat that would befit a hardcore song and heavy guitars. The vocals immediately catch your ear with this one. Only Got Yourself To Blame slows the pace down. Its a rock ballad that bursts into a loud and emotional chorus but overall it is a little too repetitive. The title track is one of the strongest on the album. It sees Vivid Nation at their most progressive rock. Time To Mend is a straight forward catchy track that relies heavily on Rhys Taylors impressive vocals. Calling You starts out slow but over the course of its 5 minutes running time, it turns into a monster of a rock song. Cracks is the only acoustic track on the record. Obviously, the vocals are the highlight once more.

It really is the vocals that make this debut stand out from other contemporary british guitar bands. While Vivid Nation don’t really add anything new to the genre, their sound is likely to appeal to readers of Kerrang and radio 1 listeners as well as die hard music fans looking for something more dissident. Vivid Nation achieve this by combining catchy guitar riffs with more sophisticated prog-rock and math-rock patterns (Open Your Mind, Calling You) that you would expect from acts such as Tall Ships or The Cast Of Cheers. At the end of the day, there is something here for every lover of guitar music.

indieisnotagenre.com


The Gentle EP
The Gentle EP
Price: £2.69

4.0 out of 5 stars The Gentle EP probably is Little Comets’ most sophisticated release yet, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The Gentle EP (MP3 Download)
Little Italy may be their most poetic and most cryptic song yet. Abounding with religious metaphors (Like an elegy soaking me, Surely holy water flows as normal water does?, and my favourite line It’s a starter for ten to the men who proselytize that a life isn’t owned but atoned), the rhythm doesn’t follow any of the typical patterns allowing them to use a lot more words than in your average quatrain. In all of this, Little Comets adhere to their typical style using African electric guitar sounds and erratic rhythms.

The Blur, the Line and the Thickest of Onions is a song that, as I understand it, deals with social decline (minimum culture, minimum wage), double standards (Why empower misogyny while violence towards women grows?) and the struggle of putting any of this in a meaningful song (Why have pride in a lyric when all the other songs go na na na). The finishing line comes back to misogyny and may be a dig at Rob Thicke’s questionable hit single “You write about a non-existent blurred line / But not about abortion rights.” Part of the song is sung a capella to put the lyrics at the centre even more.

Coalition Of One only features an acoustic guitar and drums. It’s a song about you and me struggling with the job market and the gradual destruction of the welfare state at the hands of career driven politicians. The EP closes on a quiet note with the piano driven ballad Early Retirement.

Luckily enough, Little Comets are nowhere near an early retirement. The Gentle EP is the first offering of what Little Comets have lined up for 2014. According to their website, they will release a new album and 2 more EP. They will be on tour in the UK throughout February and North America – 2014 should be a very busy year for Little Comets.

The Gentle EP probably is Little Comets’ most sophisticated release yet. Instead of the usual topics such as love and loss, Little Comets share their view on life, music, politics, and the welfare system. The EP is a product of a more experienced and aged band still around and loving what they do although they never had a breakthrough, and most likely never will. The Gentle EP may not be accessible for everyone but it is a one of a kind release that leaves me curious to to what else the band has lined up for this year.

indieisnotagenre.com


You Can Do Better
You Can Do Better
Price: £11.58

3.0 out of 5 stars With all the self-irony implied by the title, I don’t believe they can do better, but then again they don’t need to, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: You Can Do Better (Audio CD)
The opener Shipping is a good indication where this ship is sailing with its distorted guitars, hectic drums and somewhat angsty lyrics (“I started drinking alone”).

Le Sigh marks the shortest song on the record and is also available for free download so you can see for yourself if you dig their sound. It’s what I’d call a typical JoFo song, loud and fast with ironic lyrics such as ” your bands all sound like a copy of a copy of a copy etc.” (the Matrix, anyone?) or “give me a scene where the hype comes last and a nightbus that just comes” (amen to that). As for the title, I’m not sure it’s supposed to mean anything other than prefixing an English term with a french article just for fun. This is outdone by the penultimate song Le Schwing, the latter being German for swing.

The first three songs all sound a bit uniform and typical for JoFo. Four songs into the record, there is a cut. Riff Glitchard (evidently a pun on Cliff Richards and the words riff and glitch) starts out as an instrumental post rock song until eventually Kelly’s vocals kick in. I must say that I prefer Kelly’s cleaner vocals to her usual singing that borders on screaming (which is a common issue I have with female vocalists). Only at the end it explodes into the usual JoFo noise pop. The song was previously released on their Manhatten Project EP last year.

After this intermezzo, the record is pretty much back to your usual JoFo sound. Stop Talking About Ghosts being a self-reference to their cover and video art shows that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. The final regular track The Devastator ends the record on a softer tune whose 10 minutes running time is achieved by the addition of a hidden track To The Deaf.

All in all, Johnny Foreigner do what they do best on this one delivering enjoyable and often tongue-in-cheek punk pop songs with dual vocals provided by Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern. However, after a few listens the record didn’t really stick with me and I’m having a hard time telling the difference between this one and their previous releases. It’s an enjoyable album but if you didn’t like JoFo before this one isn’t likely to change your mind. If you did, you will love this one just as much as all the others. With all the self-irony implied by the title, I don’t believe they can do better, but then again they don’t need to.

indieisnotagenre.com


The 1975
The 1975
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing debut that brings something new to the scene, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The 1975 (Audio CD)
Recorded at the Motor Museum in Liverpool, with Arctic Monkeys collaborator Mike Crossey, the album kicks off with the eponymous title track The 1975 which is a dark synth laden electronic opener with reverberated vocals pretty much like the ones on their EPs. It leads straight up to the hit single The City which has been re-recorded and given a fuller sound for the album. The City has a kind of Vampire Weekend guitar riff that makes you tap your foot to the beat and I’m pretty certain it contains a reference to Misfits (the show, not the band).

M.O.N.E.Y. is the band at their most RnB followed by Chocolate and Sex, the singles from their previous EPs. While Sex may not be their most arty or creative song, it is certainly their most memorable. It’s soaring guitars and explicit lyrics are bound to stick with anyone who ever dabbled in emo pop rock. Although my teenage years are more than a decade ago I can still relate to this song like I was still 16. Chocolate embraces a tropical electro pop sound similar to The City.

Talk! borrows from math rock with its frenetic beats while An Encounter is a solemn interlude separating the first half of the album from the second. Next up is Heart Out, a song frequently played during their shows. It’s been a favourite of mine for a while and I’m glad it finally gets a proper release. It has an infectious pumping bass line and features a saxophone that sound like from an 80s movie. Just imagine you play College’s A Real Hero at double speed. Settle Down is another frequent live song. It continues the 80s feeling but is a lot more jaunty than any of their other songs.

On to Robbers, which is equally often performed, they slow down the pace. This one is rather stripped which makes Healy’s distressed vocals stand out. He pushes his voice to the limits in either direction switching from high pitched falsetto to almost shouting. It’s not just his ever heart throb look but the anguished way in which he sings that give you the impression that he is indeed about to cry.

Girls is another funky tune that has Healy singing so fast that you can hardly make out the lyrics. 12 is another interlude before She Way Out takes the album back to to the beginning of the album with its steady percussions and tropical guitars and has already become one of my personal highlights. I can see this becoming a possible next single. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fade out at the end, a song needs a proper ending.

Menswear is another new one that has the band experiment once more with synths and reverberated vocals. About half way through the song the drums kick in and Healy sings over sampled layers of his own voice. Certainly a highlight, this kind of creative playing around is what makes The 1975 stand out from other bands. Pressure is another 80s driven upbeat tune that rounds of the album.

The final track Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You departs from anything you’ve heard from The 1975 so far. It’s a solomn Gershwin-esque piano ballad that, according to Healy, is the most personal song on the entire album. It’s a reflection on leaving one’s parents home for good. Once again Healy’s vocal range amazes me. His vocals are so low on this one I wasn’t even sure it was him at all. And just like that, the album ends on a question mark and you just want to play it again. 16 tracks and not a single filler, the long work the album has been through has paid off.

The album is thoroughly produced. The order of the songs is a perfect fit and you wouldn’t even think about skipping any of them. When comparing the EP versions of The City, Chocolate and Sex to the album versions though everything sounds fuller and bigger. A new video for Sex released right in time for their US tour has been ill received by many old fans because it departs from the black and white DIY image the band had surrounded themselves with. It comes to mind that these changes were made to appeal to a larger, not to say the mainstream, audience. That in mind, the album leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste for fangirls like myself.

Nonetheless, it still is a fantastic album, easily the best of the year so far. The 1975 are one of those few bands that actually contribute something new to the scene. Here’s hoping they can deal with the enormous success and continue what they are doing best.

indieisnotagenre.com


Hand Prints
Hand Prints
Price: £3.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut despite minor weaknesses, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Hand Prints (MP3 Download)
As Elephants are were formed in High Wycombe, a town I frequently drove through to get from Oxford to Luton Airport, in 2011 after Ben Stratford (vocals/guitar) and Harry Roche (bass) had to collaborate on the writing and recording of music for their college music course. Realising that there was no one else like-minded on the course they recruited an old school friend each in Joe Miller (guitar) and Rob Waters (drums) to complete the recording line up.

Following the singles Youth Blood/Lucifer and Crystal, the band have now released their long anticipated debut EP Hand Prints. Kicking off with the lead track is becomes clear that As Elephants Are have matured quite a bit since their first musical output. The production is thorough, doing Stratford’s vocals justice and is filled with all the proper ingredients of a great pop rock song: catchy guitar riffs, progression, a sing-along chorus and, this is the icing on the cake, a trumpet. I’m certain this track will do well on the radio and will shake some legs at your favourite disco.

Kingdom slows things down a bit and adds more synths to the mix. It’s a song ladden with teenage romanticism and escapism as Stratford sings: “Let’s live inside our heads tonight and let the demons out this time / this could be our kingdom / You know, you’re not alone.” As cheesy as that may sound you can’t really blame them for writing such incredibly infectious pop music. These guys have a knack for bridges too. The transition takes the song to a whole new level “When you feel like the fear is gone / Can you shake, can you shake it off / can you shake shake shake hey“. Granted there is a bit of Florence & The Machine and The Sounds there, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t sing along at this point.

Souls is the obligatory ballad written in minor. Unfortunately, the track is quite monotonous unlike the rest of the EP making it its weakest track. The vocals seem a bit forced as Stratford sings “Souls, you’ll be the one to save our souls” over and over again which is about everything that happens over the course of its 3:28 minutes running time. Don’t get me wrong, Souls isn’t a terrible song but compared to the rest of the EP it borders on mediocrity. Went Wrong is more like it, this is how you write a proper power ballad. Again, the bridge does a lot to build the song up to the grand finale.

Despite its minor weaknesses, Hand Prints is a great debut. Tracks such as Hand Prints and Kingdom show that this band is literally destined to take festival stages and radio stations alike (in the UK anyway). These guys have such a good hand for writing tremendously catchy pop tunes, their prints will be all over the place in no time making it easy to cut them slack them for the odd not as good song.

indieisnotagenre.com


Modern Creation
Modern Creation
Price: £17.42

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing record that unpretentiously shows off a band’s love for their roots, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Modern Creation (Audio CD)
The Whigs have been together as a band more than a decade during which they’ve released four critically lauded studio albums and toured constantly as either headliners or openers for the likes of the Drive-By Truckers, Kings of Leon, and MGMT.

My first encounter with them was in 2010 while they were on tour with Kings Of Leon and had just released their third record In The Dark. Since I’m not really a fan of Kings Of Leon, I was happy that The Whigs decided to play a few off headline shows in small local clubs. I was captivated by their live energy which was put back into my mind when I gave Moden Creation its first spin. The album carries that same raw energy I was so Impressed with at their show. Apparently, that is just what the band had in mind while making this record because they recorded it live for which they even set up a small stage in their studio and captured most of the songs in first or second takes.

Says Parker Gispert (guitar/vocals): “We wanted to record quickly, and we wanted to record live. That meant we weren’t going to write a bunch of songs that relied on a horn line or any outside instrumentation. That guided the composition of the songs and informed how we approached recording them.” The album was produced by Jim Scott who has helmed albums by Tom Petty, Wilco, and Matthew Sweet, among many others.

The album kicks off with buzzing guitars and pounding drum beats. From the first notes of opening track You Should Be Able To Feel It – quite a telling name by the way – up until the beautiful midtempo closer The Difference Between One And Two it feels like the band is playing live in your garage or living room.

Asking Strangers For Directions carries on the pummeling drums and steady beat and by the time you get to The Particular you get the full garage feeling with the bands’ repeated “Hey!” shouts that echo above the distorted guitars. The song really benefits from the fact that it was recorded in one go rather than editing the shouts in at a later stage.

Hit Me may be the most radio-friendly song on the entire record which is probably why it was chosen as a first single. It is also closest to The Whigs’ previous records. It has a certain underlying funk beat as Parker Gispert croons “You play my game – for what?”.

The Whigs draw from a varied pool of influences ranging from 70s and 80s hard rock and underground to americana and folk. On the midtempo title track and the distortion-tinged She Is Everywhere the vocals – and even some of the lyrics – reminded me a little of Neil Young. Even more so penultimate track I Couldn’t Lie. Friday Night is a straightforward rock song that invokes images of speeding down a highway on a motorcycle or getting into a drunk argument while Too Much In The Morning tells of the morning after with its mellow verse and break-out chorus.

Album closer The Difference Between One And Two is the only ballad on this album and it’s simply beautiful because it is so simple and straight forward “What’s the differnce between one and two? The answer is you“. It is exactly this unpretentiousness that makes this entire record so enjoyable. The Whigs spare the pathos of Kings Of Leon and tragic emotiveness of Augustines. This is a band that has come a long way and made a record that shows what they do best, play live. It is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Tom Petty, Neil Young or Johnny Cash but also those who ever dabbled in garage and underground rock. Modern Creation is anything but modern but it’s not old-fashioned either. It’s an amazing record that unpretentiously shows off a band’s love for their roots and it may be their best to date.

indieisnotagenre.com


Augustines [VINYL]
Augustines [VINYL]
Price: £25.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Already a candidate for the album of the year shortlist., 19 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Augustines [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Augustines were born upon the ashes of Brooklyn rock band Pela. After the death of vocalist Billy McCarthy’s brother, he and Eric Sanderson (bass, keyboards) founded We Are Augustines and released Rise Ye Sunken Ships in 2011. Rise dealt mostly with the loss of McCarthy’s brother and his mother’s schizophrenia which evidently made the record an autobiographical one. The New York band recently dropped the ‘We Are’ from their name and went back to being just Augustines (a name they couldn’t use before for legal reasons) and relocated to Seattle.

When their debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships came out two years ago I had just moved to a different country, started a new job and found a new love. I would listen to their album for hours on end on those long train rides home and went to several of their live shows in different countries. It was my soundtrack of 2012. Evidently, expectations for a follow-up were sky high. After hearing the record and hearing some of the new songs live, my expectations were more than met.

When I first listened to Cruel City, the first single to be released from the new record, it didn’t really stick. The world music influence put me off at first but what made me fall in love with the song after all was the bridge that is an Augustines moment par excellence as McCarthy bursts out vigorously “Hey, I miss your arms / I still reach for you in the dark / Hey, I miss your skin / I still reach for you in the dark.” Cruel City speaks of the alienation one can experience in a big city but also of capitalism and gentrification (Come on now cruel city / With money eyes).

The opening notes of their recent single Nothing To Lose But Your Head immediately reminded me of Headlong Into The Abyss, my favourite from their first record. The song carries an instant sense of longing as McCarthy sings “My mind feels like an empty parking lot / For the unloved and lonesome ones / They sit at a table in my head” before exploding into the powerful chorus. It’s a song that speaks about what Augustines are all about as a band, pursuing the dream like you’ve got nothing to lose. Now You Are Free shows off once more Augustines’ excellent songwriting capabilities as McCarthy sings “What am I running from / Myself and everyone“. The song also exhibits McCarthy’s vocal range as he quickly moves between a high voice and his typical husky voice.

One of the strongest songs on the album, musically and lyrically, is Walkabout. It starts out a a solemn ballad with McCarthy singing in a high voice before it explodes into a a full blown rock anthem. It’s about not being stuck anymore and going out there to pursue ones dreams.

Augustines is a step up from Rise on many levels. With drummer Rob Allen now being a full band member (he toured the first record but wasn’t on it), the drums have become much more essential to the songwriting itself (Cruel City, Kid You’re On Your Own). Keyboards (played by Eric Sanderson) have also become an integral part (Now You Are Free, The Avenue) and the songs as a whole have become more varied through the use of progressive and transitional elements. Particularly Kid You’re On Your Own and Walkabout really build up in the course of their 4 to 5 minutes runtime.

The record is also really well structured as an album: it starts out slowly with the intro and then Cruel City and Nothing To Lose kick in. After that, they slow the pace down a little with the love song Weary Eyes just to speed it up again with Don’t You Look Back. Walkabout and Kid You’re On Your Own are true gems and they are thoroughly placed in the middle of the album before they slow things down once more with another ballad (This Ain’t Me) and the anthemic Now You Are Free. The record ends on a slower note with the piano driven The Avenue and Highway 1 Interlude. The final track, Hold Onto Anything, is another midtempo rock anthem in the likes of New Drink For The Old Drunk from their debut. It features McCarthy’s typical Yeahs, that are so fun to sing back at him during their gigs. Unfortunately, Ballad Of A Patient Man, which they always play live, is not on the album but you can get it as a b-side to Cruel City.

While Rise Ye Sunken Ships was a very personal album dealing mostly with the loss of Billy McCarthy’s brother, Augustines is a record that was written when the band was on the road for almost 2 years in a row. It deals with more general topics such as love and loss, loneliness, hope, and finding oneself. When asked, Billy McCarthy said that Rise was a record they really wrote for themselves while Augustines is a record they wrote for the fans (you can read more about that in our interview). With such a highly acclaimed debut as Augustines have released in 2011, it often happens that a sophomore release cannot live up to the expectations and falls flat. There’s the fine line one needs to walk between more of the same and musical development and Augustines managed to do just that. McCarthy stuck to the type of honest songwriting that made the first record so special and he and his bandmates crafted an album that is already a candidate for the album of the year shortlist.

indieisnotagenre.com


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