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Toby Staunton "dancing mole" (Derbyshire, England)
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Only Revolutions
Only Revolutions
Price: £4.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Mon the Biff!!!, 22 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Only Revolutions (Audio CD)
Since their first album back in 2002 Biffy Clyro have consistently made some of the most inspiring and original rock music you can find. Every album has been different with its own challenges and joys for the listener. It is no surprise then that their fifth album `Only Revolutions' offers yet another such challenge.

As with their other four albums the start of `Only Revolutions' is littered with singles. Recent single `The Captain' is a thrilling opening. Marching footsteps create a nice atmosphere and then that riff comes in. It is exhilarating and anthemic from the start indicating Biffy's growing awareness of pop appeal. Having said that the lyrics are never compromised and it is recognisably Biffy. `That Golden Rule' then blazes in with phenomenal style equal to Biffy's best. The crescendo at the end simply leaves me winded every time due to its monstrosity. `Bubbles' has an interesting between balance between its bouncy riffs and driving anthemic chorus. It's simply a joy and it maintains the pace set by the openers very nicely indeed. `God & Satan' then is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It has some great self deprecating lyrics like "I savour hate as much as crave love because I'm just a twisted guy". There is also a soft thoughtfulness that plays off the unrestrained energy of the opening three tracks to gently draw you into the lyrics. After all this you get your first taste of something totally odd. `Born On a Horse' has a strange effect heavy bass line and bouncing riff. Towards the end of the track it breaks into a suitably sized riff with rolling drums before ending abruptly. It is a unique moment that can only be Biffy.

Then comes a moment on the album that for me defines whether or not it would work. `Mountains' as we all know it is brilliant, and there was always a risk that if they put it on this album it would dominate everything else and in a way degrade it. However Biffy have managed to blend it well into the album after it has been such a huge hit in its own right. `Shock Shock' then continues the pace of the album and once again balances a big sound with Biffy's originality and growing pop awareness. `Many of Horror' then introduces another moment of calm into the album. It is a well made track. The sound of Simon Neil's fingers sliding over the frets at moments add a human quality. The vocals are open and honest throughout the track with lyrics like "When you hit me, hit me hard" and the strings and gradually swelling sound add a sense of scale to the whole thing.

`Boom, Blast and Ruin' is a fantastic track. The riff is driving and energetic once again. The vocals are still powerful and at just over three minutes long it is screaming out to be a single. If it's not then it will remain an utter gem tucked away towards the end of the album here. `Cloud of Stink' then is even shorter. It opens with rolling drums a powerful riff and an astounding vocal line. This will be a must for live shows and almost certainly a joy every time. The final two tracks then are as engaging as the rest of the album. `Know Your Quarry' is atmospheric with reflective lyrics and a piano line to compliment it. The strings in the background add depth to the sound as well without being over powering. It is a very well written track. `Whorses' then closes the whole thing in triumphant style. The rolling drums push it on through growing intensity to a riff worthy of any quality rock band, and it does it all with undeniable confidence.

The album seems short for Biffy at just twelve tracks only one of which is over five minutes in length but the sense of restraint that this creates is fantastic. The ability of the band to contain their consistently huge sound into such a concise package is a real talent and it has achieved the aim of making their sound more accessible. This is still noticably a Biffy album though and as such it is original exciting and worthy of every praise it gets. Mon the Biff!!!


Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures
Price: £6.86

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sink your beaks into this!!!, 17 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Them Crooked Vultures (Audio CD)
For the uninitiated Them Crooked Vultures is formed of Mr Dave Grohl, Mr Joshua Homme and Mr John Paul Jones. If there has been a more exciting line up for a "super group" in recent years then I have not heard it. From the first time I heard of them I have been excited by the prospect of a band like this that has the potential to add a powerful slice of pure rock into a music industry obsessed with auto tune and indie hooks. The anticipation therefore began to build, and this was only exaggerated by the occasional thirty second samples of tracks like `Elephants' and `Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I'.

So how does the album compare to the expectation? Well it starts with the aforementioned `Nobody Loves Me...' The recording on this track has a certain homemade quality to it that instantly adds charm and intrigue into the music. This is music for the sake of music and it sounds great. Homme's vocals have a nice flow to them which is supported by the instrumentation. The sound gets stronger towards the middle before dropping you in the middle of an angry riff that couldn't sound any meatier if it tried. To follow this `Mind Eraser, No Chaser' has a real groove to it. The harmonies in the chorus balance the power of the main riff with a little bit of fun, before it ends with a horn part that wouldn't be out of place on the water front at any seaside tourist resort. `New Fang' continues with more memorable riffs and quality vocals to match. The recording here has lost a little bit of its homemade quality but the raw energy is still there, and it continues into `Dead End Friends'. This track has a good driving riff as well as a solo that closes it in wonderful style. So by this stage in the album you can start to appreciate the quality of the band and you are only four tracks in.

`Elephants' continues in similar style with another frantic riff. The intro could be claimed to be a little too long but this is a minor point. The track becomes more twisted and nightmarish as it progresses before opening into a dream like section that then descends back into the main frantic riff. It's a long track but a rewarding one. `Scumbag Blues' is pounding with some nice echoing vocals. `Bandoliers' has a slight Mexican quality to it but is the most forgettable track of the album really as there is no big riff or serious experimentation to make it stand out. `Reptiles' is strangely disorientating. The guitars and drums roughly follow each other at moments and the bass provides good support. It is an odd track that is hard to get on with first time round but ultimately becomes quite rewarding.

After `Interlude with Ludes' which provides a welcome break in the album `Warsaw' enters the fray with a strong hand. The riff is menacing, and the vocals have a determined quality to them. The chorus chimes and echoes like a choir motivated by war. The almost eight minute length of the track though is a little too much. `Caligulove' is more reasonable though at just under five minutes the energy feels much less constrained here making the track much punchier. The element of madness provided by the electric organ towards the end of the chorus, the distantly echoing vocals and the nightmarish guitar solo is really interesting.

The album then closes out with `Gunman' which is another punchy riff driven rock song. It could even be described as funky with a veritably strutting quality. It is a testament to the quality and confidence of the band that twelve tracks into the album they produce one of its highlights. `Spinning in Daffodils' then closes the whole thing out in almost elegant style showing more of the bands diversity. The piano opening is wonderfully pleasant before pounding drums and guitars destroy the illusion of peace. The doubled vocals are menacing and the atmosphere created by the whole thing is quite claustrophobic despite its length. So after starting in an almost under produced manner it concludes with a veritable cacophony of sound.

One thing that can be said is that it is powerful throughout. But did this monster of a super group deliver on their promise? Well I would say yes. It is a refreshing and energetic injection of hard rock.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2009 7:57 PM GMT


Congregation Of The Damned
Congregation Of The Damned
Offered by westworld-
Price: £12.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Balance of Sound, 28 Oct. 2009
Two years ago Atreyu released their major label debut `Lead Sails Paper Anchor'. It was an attempt to push their sound in a more accessible direction. It was not received as well as was intended. So for this their fifth studio album Atreyu have taken another look at things. The accessibility is still there in some form but it is balanced by some of the bands earlier metalcore aggression. The whole thing starts in epic fashion with a riff to die for and rolling aggressive drums supporting some powerful vocals. `Bleeding is a Luxury' is the first track on the album to really show the new balance of sound. The opening riff is accessible and the vocals alternate between aggressive half screams and something all together more open and epic in style. The breakdown towards the end accompanied by some veritably aggressive strings is fantastic. The title track then follows with a style more similar to their 2007 release than anything else. Much of the album though balances the aggressive and epic sounds though. It works particularly well on `Black Days Begin', `Gallows' and `Ravenous'.

The highlight of the album comes with `You Were the King, Now You're Unconscious'. It's the longest track on the album and starts in menacing style with the sound of a mob in the background. The guitars during the verse continue the aggression and menace. The chorus is epic and widescreen in its ambition, and at just over five minutes long it seems somehow restrained, concise and powerful.

There is no messing around on this album. Atreyu know what they want to achieve and they succeed in many respects. This album has the intelligence to balance the two styles effectively. It's a powerful offering.


What Will We Be
What Will We Be
Price: £6.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warm, Psychadelic and Intelligent, 28 Oct. 2009
This review is from: What Will We Be (Audio CD)
Mr Banhart has. been releasing albums to varying success since 2002. The track that originally drew my intention to the band was 2005's `Heard Somebody Say' with its overtly political and downcast mood. It was none the less a triumph for song writing and originality in a year when Fall Out Boy and Hard-Fi were kings. So come 2009 does Devendra Banhart still manage to stand alone in sound and character? To a certain extent yes. Though this year we have seen the gradual increase in folk influenced music from bands like Mumford and Son and Noah and the Whale there is still a unique character to Devendra Banhart's music. It's psychedelic and charming.

The album starts gently like the pleasant ring of the end of summer. `Angelika' then is a warm and gently bouncing track lead by jazzy piano line and Devendra's reverberating voice. Recent single `Baby' exhibits more warmth and bounce to it. There is also a sense of fun in the song writing here with the use of lyrics like "holy moly" and harmonies in the chorus that sound like the "choo choo train" that Devendra mentions. It is a charming song. The lilting guitars and soft layering of `Goin' Back' show intelligence in the variety of Banhart's song writing early in the album.

`First Song for B' and `Last Song for B' form an interesting combination of sound in put back to back on the album. They both have a mournful feel to them departing from the warmth of the start of the album. Lyrics like "Please destroy me" provide support to this departure. Once you get past the strange name of `Chin Chin & Muck Muck' you are treated to a moment of creativity. The brushed drums and horns in the first section lend a live feel to the recording. This is followed by a more energetic section with a greater sense of fun. The next brief section is lead by the vocal section which the piano follows. Finally the last section returns to the slight summer warmth of earlier in the album. The only constant throughout this track is Devendra's reverberating voice and the higher pitched backing.

`16th & Valencia Roxy Music' is a dancier moment in the album filled with anticipation and excitement. `Rats' then is certainly a broodier moment on the album that brings to mind The Doors with deep and intelligent Jim Morrison like vocals as well as reverberating guitar lines. There are brief moments in the track exhibiting Banhart's wonderful originality and playfulness.

Towards the end of the track then Banhart shows his continued intelligence and originality. `Maria Lionza' and `Brindo' represent Banhart's joint heritage of California and Venezuela. One is warmly psychedelic and the other holds more Latino influences whilst keeping Banhart's character. `Meet Me at Lookout Point' then is almost dream like. Unfortunately, though the last two tracks, which aren't in themselves bad, do feel surplus to requirement.

So how do you sum up this sixth full length? It continues to show Devendra Banhart's originality as well as exhibiting a growing maturity in his writing. It's a warm and accomplished piece of work.


Cosmic Egg
Cosmic Egg
Offered by Great Price Media EU
Price: £3.33

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Difficult Second Album, 26 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Cosmic Egg (Audio CD)
It's a well known fact that many bands suffer from "The difficult second album". No one though has suffered from this syndrome quite as much as Wolfmother and Andrew Stockdale. In 2008 the other two founding members of the band walked out on Stockdale leaving Wolfmother effectively as a solo project. So now just a year later, and with three new members, Stockdale and Wolfmother return.

So has the music fallen into second album traps as well? Unfortunately yes. It's not as bad as you may expect though. The first album bristled with raw power, huge riffs and phenomenal vocals. This second offering then feels like it is lacking a bit of conviction. The riffs are there but are just not as powerful. They don't deliver the originality that the was shown on the first album. As a result there are no astonishingly memorable tracks like `Woman', `Dimension' and `The Joker & The Thief'. All of this aside there are some good moments. As well as being the original name of the new line up `White Feather' is a more confident moment on the album with a lightness and sense of fun that you might expect from what is essentially a new band. `Sundial' is strong and aggressive with some serious distortion towards the end. `Far Away' is a reasonable offering as well, demonstrating the bands more melodic and relaxed side.

So it hasn't fallen totally into second album syndrome but it clearly has been hard for Stockdale and co.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2010 8:52 PM BST


Spring Tides
Spring Tides
Price: £10.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Confident, 23 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Spring Tides (Audio CD)
Three years ago Jeniferever released their debut `Choose a Bright Morning' which was a triumph of subtle post-rock with some fantastic soft vocals adding character and grace to the whole album. Now the band returns with their second offering 'Spring Tides'. Is this the moment when they grow into a recognised and respected act alongside Sigur Ros, Mono and the others in the big boys league of post-rock. Some might claim that they already hold a place there. Either way this new record is one that will rubber stamp any remaining questions as they stand proudly amongst the significant few.

The album opens with `Green Meadow Island' which has a certain stripped back quality to it thanks to the deceptive simplicity of the music in the initial verse. This also lends a certain honesty to the sound that is refreshing and intriguing at the same time. As the track develops it becomes heavier and looses the simplicity which is replaced by understated aggression, which is then replaced by a gently swirling atmosphere. `Concrete and Glass' starts with quietly echoing string sections which sound so crisp as if reflecting the author's native climate. This atmosphere subtly changes through the track slowly becoming warmer and more enclosed, and the layered vocals towards the end of the track add a more communal feeling. `Ox-Eye' starts in quite a thoughtful manner with a regular and deliberate drum beat combined with gently chiming and echoing guitar lines. The vocals are feel very honest here. The track then breaks and becomes much more urgent and intense in true post-rock style. This break is not overtly aggressive though. The vocals match the intensity of the music throughout adding depth to the sound. It's a strangely ecstatic sound.

Once `Ox-Eye' fades out it is replaced by `St Gallen' which has a notable different pace to start with a simple, mournful piano line. It is joined by nice soft bass and nice orchestration, including some nice echoing trumpets. More layers are constantly added to the sound to create greater depth without damaging the overall atmosphere. This really is a trick that Jeniferever pull off very well and should be noted by others. This track is followed by the title track from recent EP `Nangijala'. This is a wonderful track filled with more subtlety. It's almost ten minute length is no burden to the listener and there are some great touches along the way. The simply strummed guitar of the opening is very charming and it gives space for the vocals to be clearly heard in the mix. The absolute triumph of this track is the way that the intricacy develops without notice adding beautiful depth whilst maintain the open atmosphere. It then becomes a little more aggressive with stronger bass lines and more distorted guitars. The vocals become similarly more intense at the same time. After a brief moment of calm the drums then drive the track back into a swirling moment of almost anthemic intensity. It never falls into the all too easy traps of big hooks and catchy vocals though, therefore maintaining its originality and individual character.

So halfway through the album and we have already had some treats. Is there still more then? `Sparrow Hill' has an echoing guitar line and gently bouncing drum part that adds a new dimension to the record as a whole. `Lives Apart' then adds more calm to the album. It is a questioning and curious track that ends with a sense of realisation and resignation. The lyrics are truly wonderful throughout this track as well. `The Hourglass' is a more intense affair with stronger and more persistent drums and bass as well as a gently picked guitar line. Though the intensity of sound builds throughout the track it never manages to break and so leaves a sense of unreleased tension in its wake. `Ring Out the Grief' continues with a stronger drum beat and more intricate guitar. The added rhythm that comes with the vocals gives the track a slight sense of urgency as well that builds brilliantly as the track progresses. Diversity is added with a moment of calm which is punctuated by gentle piano. The last track shimmers gently and provides a really nice conclusion to a very good album.

This is album represents a moment of calm in the ever aggressive media circus that surrounds the music world more and more at the moment. It is a real triumph of originality.


Miike Snow
Miike Snow
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.01

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Glacial Pop!, 22 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Miike Snow (Audio CD)
What happens if you mix the quirky intelligence and originality of Band of Horses and Animal Collective with the undeniable pop sensibilities of bands like Passion Pit, Empire of the Sun and Midnight Juggernauts? You get Miike Snow!!! This Swedish three piece first met in 2000 and started recording together in 2007. Two years later the result is the bands self titled debut album.

The album starts with recent single `Animal' which is a simply joyous bit of pop music. It opens with a simple rhythm comprised of bass and keyboards beautifully copying each other in harmony. This beat persists through both verse and chorus creating a continuity and dance atmosphere to the whole composition. The chorus itself is a catchy pop refrain. This is an opening that spells out exactly how Miike Snow intends to make music. `Burial' follows in similar vein with opening keyboard that chimes so happily it's almost unbelievable. It sounds like the crisp cold of fresh snow. The track then swirls into a wonderfully soft and melodic number with brilliant lyrics like "Don't forget to cry at your own burial."

So that's the opening salvo dealt with but that's by no means the highlights. `Silvia' echoes with strong piano lines and a persistent but unobtrusive beat. As the track grows it turns into something halfway between a bit of electro chill-out and pure pop stormer. `Song for No One' is a nothing more than a slice of pure pop, and `Black & Blue', also a recent single, is the standard of music that artists like Sam Sparro should have released. It has a crisp high vocal and synthy fizz and pop quality to the chorus that is exciting and fresh here. `Sans Soleil' is slow and thoughtful to start with a gentle piano part and gently clicking rhythm, but it slowly builds with more intricate piano, hummed backing vocals and wonderful lyrics like " Watching shadows within shadows, hide their dark selves from the sun."

If there is one track that really deserves to be hugely successful its `A Horse is Not a Home'. The rhythm is insistent and engaging. The lyrics are open and at moments almost painfully honest. Nowhere is the truer than in the opening lines of "Oh god, I think I'm dying and our drinks were just poured." There is strangely mournful and anthemic at the same time. It's a masterpiece of bitter sweet pop music. `Cult Logic' then slowly beats like a moment of respite after the wonderment of the previous track. Having said which, the chorus is still full of soaring vocals and fizzing synth. The sound of `Plastic Jungle' matches its name with stomping tribal like beats that drive throughout. The chorus is much simpler than elsewhere on the album but none the less very effective retaining a certain pop atmosphere. This track represents the dark side of Miike Snow. `In Search Of' is probably the weakest track on the album but this doesn't mean it is at a complete loss. The synths buzz nicely and the sound builds gently pushing the listener on. It sounds like the feeling of having lost something without being able to determine what is missing. The album ultimately closes out with `Faker' which starts with simple piano and those vocals once more echoing over the top. Synths whistle at moments throughout as if you are hearing sound bites of a lullaby as they echo on the wind. It gently flows to the end of the first part of Miike Snow's story.

Everything about this album is crisp and precise. It bristles with pop hooks and chilled out electro rhythms. You can only help but wonder whether if this had had a major released before Passion Pit's `Manners' would we have fallen for Miike Snow instead. Either way this is brilliant slice of feel good pop.


Man From Another Time
Man From Another Time
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.73

55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Whatever Time You're From, 20 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Man From Another Time (Audio CD)
You cannot help but love Seasick Steve. He looks like a man who has travelled all over the world and his music and lyrics are filled with the consequent maturity and perspective. The opener to this album is a track called `Diddley Bo'. It is a phenomenal track filled with driving energetic drums and a lead line played on some kind of homemade lap steel instrument. To follow this `Big Green and Yeller' swaggers and struts with a more than accomplished riff and a wonderful rock vocal. This wouldn't be out of place in the 70's and yet it feels just as timeless today. Recent single `Happy (To Have a Job)' is well placed at track three with its stripped back production, bouncy folk guitar and deep vocals. `Banjo Song' then descends further into Seasick Steve's stripped back country sounds in such a way that you can't help but smiling at the simplicity.

After this the title track starts confidently with plodding drums before Steve's vocals ring through over a sliding and twanging guitar line. This is a wonderfully honest track. To follow this `That's All' struts with more of the same confidence and a produces a growing desire in me to dance in stereotypical hill billy fashion. The sound then returns to a more stripped back state with `Just Because I Can' which is a sombre and gentle travelling song. It acts almost as a prologue to `Never Go West' which though more energetic is angry and slightly bitter. On `Dark' Steve then produces a sombre and slightly remorseful track.

Ultimately the album closes out in similar style to the way it started. `Seasick Boogie' is plodding with a wonderfully bouncy guitar line. The whole package is then held together with Steve's vocals once more growling throughout. Once Steve, Vance, Roy and Nathan have said goodbye and Steve has set up a bit of a party you are treated to a beautifully soft version of Hank William's `I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.'

Seasick Steve is a character almost unlike any other in the music industry today and albums like this are an absolute joy to listen to filled with wonderful stories, emotion and no small slice of fun.


Logos
Logos
Price: £8.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just another side project, 20 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Logos (Audio CD)
For those who don't know Atlas Sound is the solo project of Deerhunter's Bradford James Cox. `Logos' represents his second solo release after 2008's `Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel'. It is a well judged piece of dreamy pop. Opener `The Light That Failed' is an atmospheric and sombre affair with echoing vocals and strange squelching sounds in the background of the track. `An Orchid' is gentle and strangely thoughtful whereas first single `Walkabout' represents a moment of fun within the opening salvos of the album. `Criminals' could almost be considered as Bradford's version of folk with soft drums and gently repeating guitars. One of the highlights of the album is `Sheila' which is an honest and emotional insight into Cox's views on love, life and death. The title track eventually closes out the album in energetic style. This album as a whole cements Atlas Sound's status as more than just another side project and it produces some really lovely moments along the way.


Straight No Chaser
Straight No Chaser
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.98

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over Produced . . ., 19 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Straight No Chaser (Audio CD)
Since their 2007 debut Mr Hudson have renamed themselves and enlisted the help of Kanye West. His high production qualities are spread all over this record. The first two singles `Supernova' and `White Lies' are placed consecutively at the start of the record. This can only be described as poor track organisation as it makes the whole thing feel overly commercial from the start. So how's the music then? The singles are catchy and glossy with good choruses. The title track is a nice bit of pop/R&B, though the auto-tuned vocals could be claimed to be a little over the top. The biggest highlight comes from `There Will be Tears' which is a nice ballad and the high production auto-tune tricks sound fresh and original. The album ultimately suffers a bit from being over produced at times and is lacking in a really original sound. It's pleasant pop music but nothing more.


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