Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

Otra is a duo of two sisters. Recorded at their home in foggy Pacifica, CA, their debut album I’m Not That Way (out digitally on Feb 10, 2023 via Thirty Something Records) documents their journey as they learn to see themselves more clearly and exist outside of expectations. As the band ruminates on their purpose and sense of self, the tracks search for their own sonic identities – weaving and wandering erratically through a fogfest of hypnagogic synths, chaotic clarinets, haunting vocal stacks, crunchy guitars, and polyrhythmic earth.

Of the first single ‘Repercussion Concussion,’ the band says: “It’s a love song we wrote in September 2019 inspired by Beirut and Sigur Ros! It’s about the weird little moments that make up a relationship, and the resounding joy of learning to move through challenges together.”

Watch the video here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

This was supposed to be the perfect bookend to the year: after Percy supported Soma Crew at The Crescent in May, the roles were to be swapped tonight following the release of Percy’s new album, Monorail, in June. But sadly, it wasn’t to be, on account of Percy’s drummer Jason royally fucking his back.

Gigs at this time of year are always a risk, and not only on account of the potentials for injury (as the icy pavements on the way only highlight): the fact that it’s hard sub-zero means a lot of people can’t face wrapping up again after work to turn out on an evening, and then there all of the obligatory work / mates drinks and all that cal. Throw in Steve Mason playing across town and this one was always going to be a gamble, but despite the headliners’ late withdrawal, it’s a respectable crowd who witness The Rosettas emerging sounding stronger than the last time I saw them at the end of September. The sound is solid, buzzy, grungy.

The singer’s confidence leans into arrogance throughout, and not just in ignoring advice sagely dispensed in my coverage of said show in September, while actually mentioning the recommendation not to drop a cover as their second song, they slam in with a faithful rendition of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ as the second song of the set. But it makes sense, and it is well played, as is the majority of the rest of the set. I suspect the singer’s suffering from a cold or something that gives his voice quite a ragged edge, but actually, it sounds decent.

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The Rosettas

Unfortunately, technical issues and a lack of organisation means the set ends abruptly and somewhat chaotically, but they played with enthusiasm and were a lot less reliant on covers, and ultimately made the best of a less than ideal situation.

They seem to clear out and take half the audience with them, but, undeterred, Soma Crew take the stage and drench it with sonorous droning feedback. Then they build into a single chord dragging for all eternity as the muffled drums plod away in the back and they hit peak hypnotic. And then the tremolo enters the mix and the volume steps up with the arrival of the snare drum and…. and… and… the set drifts, and my mind drifts, and it’s a most pleasant experience. Time hangs in suspension. ‘Mighty Forces’ is indeed mighty, and the mid-pace one chord chugs are supremely soporific. Everything is measured, mellow, hazy. Everything comes together to conjure a thick sonic mist, and it’s absolutely magnificent. It’s also seriously loud, as I come to realise about two-thirds of the way into the set. When did that happen? Did it get louder? Perhaps. Probably. I can’t help but feel that Soma Crew are seriously underrated, and tonight they really hit all the sweet spots at once.

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Soma Crew

Leeds trio Nervous Twitch are worthy headliners, and launch into their set without a word, no fuss, not a single note of level checking. Pow! It’s proper, unfussy, old-school punk, three and four chord thrashes played with big energy, and they’re as tight as any band you’ll hear. Sure, with a female singer (who also plays bass), they invite obvious comparisons to X-Ray Spex and Penetration, and as much as they’re punk, they’re catchy and poppy at the same time, and ultimately, they’re good fun.

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Nervous Twitch

There are, of course, many bands playing in the next fortnight, in every city across the nation. Some will draw crowds, others less so. While I enter temporary hibernation, it feels like an appropriate time to reflect, and to celebrate the venues we’re fortunate to still have, and the fact that while times remain tough, 2022 has at last seen live music return to the social calendar. And for all the other shit we’re surrounded by – I can’t even begin the list – this is something we can be immensely grateful for.

It’s pretty perverse to release a single entitled ‘Summer Assault’ in November, but then Dubliners Thumper are pretty perverse.

The single sees Thumper venture into new territory as they release their first brand new offering since their debut album released in 2022. The single comes off the back of their extensive European, UK and Irish tour, including sell out shows in Amsterdam, London, Paris and Dublin’s Whelan’s. The bombastic Dublin outfit have also played at Sŵn Festival in Cardiff and are gearing up for a set at RTE 2FM’s Rising on the Road.

‘Summer Assault’  is a vignette of self sabotage, an anthem of small failure. It’s about a doomed relationship that carries on regardless — a narrator banging on the glass trying to warn the song’s inhabitants. Each melody and hook competes for space over an ever expanding wall of guitars, bass and their signature double drums. In just over three minutes, ‘Summer Assault’ sees Thumper boil their trademark noise wall into an ear worm of a pop song.

It calls to mind the whirling punk-infused pop or pop-infused punk of Asylums, not just in the energy and melody, but the simultaneously soaring, buzzing guitar, and we love it.

Get your lugs round it here:

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Criminal Records – 28th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Having released the No Guts All the Glory EP in November last year, just seven months after their second LP, False Company, Weekend Recovery have already been making announcements about album number three, to be named Esoteric. We’ll have to wait and see if it lives up to its titles promise of obscure knowledge and rare wisdom, but lead single ‘Chemtrails’ has already garnered some advance radio play and some kudos from DJs in the process.

First, it’s a snappy tune with a nagging guitar and an airy vocal hook and a load of their now trademark woo-oohs, so it’s radio-friendly, but more than that, this song packs a lot onto two minutes and eighteen seconds. Stylistically, it’s a poppy punky hybrid that’s equal parts X-Ray Spex and Shampoo. Then there’s the fact that Lori shifts into a spoken delivery for the verses: it’s not rappy, but it’s rhythmic, and puts the lyrics to the fore.

Lyrically, it’s interesting, in that it’s wide-ranging in its coverage. Now, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely when the ‘chemtrails’ debate began to really get traction, or why, other than ‘The Internet’ regarding the latter, but it starts out with the protagonist articulating mental confusion with the endless barrage of fake news and waves sending her insane, ‘chemtrails’ in her head and the endless talking, before swinging round to take what for some may seem an unexpected swipe at one of the particular strains of feminism that’s become popular among female-fronted circuit peers as she says ‘See, what you wanna do is stop being so right on / Telling girls to come forward, and stand where they belong / You jump into the crowd and shout and dance around.’ It shouldn’t be in any way divisive to point out that inverting the behaviours of patriarchal society by means of ‘positive discrimination’ is not the route to equality, but it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out, but it there needs to be the kind of discussion Weekend Recovery seem to be inviting here.

Sonically, it’s got more separation, and is less ‘wall of fuzz’ than the last album and EP, which is perhaps another factor in its radio appeal, although the drums are pretty dense and thick, a far cry from the trebly crack of the snares on so many commercial pop songs.

It’s a strong offering that has more depth than is first apparent – and that’s entirely the point: ‘Chemtrails’ is a song about questioning conformity. Because pop doesn’t have to be bland or vacant.

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Weekend Recovery by Jess Johnson

Photo by Jess Johnson

Clever Recordings – 21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of ‘No Chains’ in the summer, Sleep Kicks follow up with ‘Neptune’ as we fade into autumn. And there’s something of an autumnal feel to the reflective feel of ‘Neptune’.

‘Was it an act of spite / Or was it the unrelenting time / That pulled you away that night?’ Terje Kleven questions contemplatively at the beginning of the song against a warm, rolling bass and rhythmic blend of piano and chilly synths. The vibe here is distinctly early Interpol, and it suits the band, and the song, well.

Kleven’s moderate baritone rides some deftly chiming guitar that breaks into a strong chorus where the synths come to the fore and sweep upwards to forge something uplifting while still tinged with a taint of melancholy.

Yet again, Sleep Kicks have dropped a killer tune that balances darkness and light, depth and immediacy, in an example of outstanding songwriting craftsmanship. Or, put simply, ‘Neptune’ is another great tune from a consistently great band.

26th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Ever spend time scratching your head wondering what a song or band remind you of, and drawing eternal blanks? Yeah, I get it a lot: I put it down to exposure. Too much music to process.

This is by no means my first introduction to Arcade Fortress: we’ve featured three of their previous singles here on these pages, and I personally described ‘Sabotage’ as ‘a fully-realised anthemic beast of a tune’. And I stand by that, too.

Younique the album finds them powering into the title track by way of an opener, there are samples seeping from the corners as they thrust away at a punk / rock / pop hybrid sound with incendiary energy.

Younique may not be unique by any stretch, but then nor is it derivative, and my ponderance for comparisons is a frustrating distraction but simply a habit of mine. I can’t help but try to place references, lifts, nods. It’s perhaps because there’s so much going on and Younique is such a melting pot of all things from 90s grunge to post-millennial punk-pop that placing any of it specifically is nigh on impossible, and as a result, what you’re faced with is the vibe, and it’s deep retro.

They encourage us, the listener, to sit back, relax and enjoy a rollercoaster of a ride over 12 anthemic rock tracks, but it’s not as easy as all that. The slow-burning Sabotage’ sits four tracks in and there’s no questioning its anthemic enormity, and I can’t help but think of a grungier take on the sound of Depeche Mode circa Ultra, perhaps, when they were grittier and more guitar-driven.

But there’s a lot happening here. It’s not all absolutely killer: ‘Alan Bell’ gets a bit emo and lightweight, and elsewhere, and ‘Killing Time’ sits between Weezer and 80s hair rock, while ‘Tangible’ throws an area-friendly curveball. In contrast, the driving ‘Uppercut’ is more reminiscent of Therapy? circa Troublegum and its tense, taut, and totally kicks arse, as does the riff-driven ‘Strontium Dog’. ‘Dark Seeds’ is more of a punky / hard rock crossover.

It’s not always easy to make a casting vote, and it’s not always fair to get off the fence when it comes to weighing up maters of opinion and taste. Ultimately, Younique finds Arcade Fortress packing some solid tunes, and that’s hard to argue, regardless of taste.

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Agh. We shouldn’t dig this… but we do. It’s kinda grunge light, a bit Weezer (ugh),and early Foos (meh) but then it’s also a bit Bivouac, and so on, and it’s hard to hate it in a nostalgic kind of way…

Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly in vogue for bands to pay lip service to 90s alt rock, but many of them capture only the most surface level cosmetic elements, missing the critical components that defined that decade’s underground scene. A chorus pedal, a Big Muff, and a flannel don’t go far on their own merits. To put it bluntly, many groups fundamentally do not “get it”. But Baltimore, MD’s Dosser absolutely does.

Where many of their contemporaries are little more than thinly-veiled pop punk acts doing retro cosplay, Dosser gets at the core of what made 90s guitar rock such a compelling force. From leads that hearken back to early Weezer, massive riffs that evoke Jawbox, and razor-sharp pop-rock sensibilities that bring to mind the Foo Fighters’ debut LP, this is a band synthesizing the best parts of various forms into their own potent formula.

Formed in the summer of 2018 by Will Teague, Bret Lanahan, Eric Dudley, and Max Detrich, Dosser’s debut LP finds a band playing at a level well beyond what their short lifespan might suggest. Coming out on Really Rad Records in January 2023, Violent Picture / Violent Sound is about as strong an opening volley as it gets.

Of the track, Dosser’s Bret Lanahan (guitar, vocals) says: "Since I was a kid I’ve struggled greatly with crippling anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand when I was younger what either of those things were and always thought something was wrong with me or I had something bad inside me making me feel this way. I used to have this kind of weird day dream a lot that if I could just open up my chest and let whatever was inside of me that was making me feel so terrible just spill out, maybe I would feel better.

It wasn’t a bloody scene or anything like that, I guess it was just the only way my younger brain could picture getting rid of bad thoughts. As I got older and had a better understanding of what mental illness looked like I was able to get help in the form of medication. The song goes back and forth with the feeling of being trapped in one of two corners that I think are pretty common in people trying to deal with or treat mental illness. Either you treat it with medication and get to a point where you feel almost nothing at all and totally empty, or just deal with it and have such intense feelings that you can hardly bare it. Finding a release is the hardest thing to do. The lyrics are fairly simple but they hold a great weight for me."

Listen to ’Joy Thief’ here:

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Photo: Zack Pohuski

Doom metal meets dreampop on ‘Crows, Sparrows and Cats’ by Blacklab, the self-proclaimed ‘Doom Witch Duo from Osaka, Japan’. Featuring a lead vocal by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, the Hawkwind riffs, motorik heavy stomp and fuzz fat guitars coupled with that cool pop vocal is a surprising combination that hits the spot.

Hot on its heels comes a new video, featuring Hanaka the thirteen year old daughter of Blacklab drummer Chia, who creates her own dance routine for the track whilst footage (from their recent stay in London) is projected ‘Liquid Len’ like, for full psychedelic overload.

Watch the video now:

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‘Crows, Sparrows and Cats’ is taken from their latest album ‘In A Bizarre Dream’ which is out this Friday (New Heavy Sounds).

Their debut ‘Under the Strawberry Moon 2.0’ saw them taking Sabbath inspired doom, mashing it with a Japanese sensibility and a fuzzed-up groove. It certainly caused a stir, but only hinted at their potential.

Album two ‘Abyss’ added to the mix. A Stooges like squalor to the riffs, dollops of lo-fi hardcore punk and loose riffing, pointing the way towards a signature sound.

So what of the ‘difficult’ third album? Not so difficult at all it seems.  ‘In A Bizarre Dream’ ups the ante considerably, to let rip and define what Blacklab are about.

The combined talents of Jun Morino on production and Wayne Adams (Big Lad, Green Lung, Pet Brick, John, Cold In Berlin) on the mix have conspired to produce a towering beast of a record. A real step forward for the ‘Doom Witch Duo’.

The drums have a humungous ‘Fugazi’ like welly, and the guitars are a boiling maelstrom of fuzz dense riffola and warped psychedelics, with added synth. Yuko’s throat shredding snarls are as mean as a pissed off Satan, and melodious, often within the same song.

This is doom meets hardcore punk, hooky melodies, and killer riffs, all cranked up to the max. Japan has always had a special take on ‘noise’ and ‘heavy’ and with ‘In A Bizarre Dream’ Blacklab add their own spin to that tradition.

Gone is the lo-fi approach, here is Blacklab in full effect.

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12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s 30֠C in the shade up and down the country right now, and everyone is melting. It’s oddly quiet in the office at the back of my house, and had been for a while: some people have gone away on holiday, but most still seem to be at home – because most can’t afford to travel and are still working from home at least half the week – but hardly anyone’s sitting out in their back yards, It’s simply too hot.

You want to know what else is hot? Thins new single by Voodoo Radio. It’s a sizzling serving of primitive pop-flavoured punk that grabs you instantly. To unpack that, pop-punk or punk pop as we’ve come to know it in the contemporary sense is limp, bouncy and lame, but to trace the point where pop and punk converge to the late 70s, we’ve got Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, The Adverts , knocking out belting tunes that are bristling with the spiky attitude and gritty guitars of punk as it was emerging, but still packing strong melodies and hooks galore, and it’s in this bracket that Voodoo Radio sit.

There’s no pretence or hidden depth here, no subtext: this is a straight up and direct song that’s pure nostalgia, a fond reminiscence about buying ice creams from ice cream vans, delivered with a sing-song tune with a high sugar content that’s guaranteed to make you bounce off the walls. The video, too, plays on that retro vibe, shot in that 70s solarized colour tone with a proper ice-cream van as the main prop.

But what’s special about the Cumbrian duo is their unashamed exposure of their northern roots, which have never been more celebrated than on ‘Ice Cream Man’, where Paige’s pronunciation is proper gritty with flat vowels and glottal stops galore, and this only accentuates the vibrancy and directness that simply makes this song so much fun. It’s old school, but this comes with added sprinkles, and you won’t hear anything cooler, more fresh, and more exhilarating all heatwave long.

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29th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something quite unique about the Nordic / Scandinavian strain of contemporary post-punk. It’s not easy to pinpoint, nothing you can really put your finger on. But there’s something in that balancing of light and dark, and it’s something I probably became subconsciously attuned to at an early age, listening to A-Ha in the mid-80s when I was still in primary school. I would only later come to realise just how strong the currents of darkness and melancholy ran through their precise pop songs, and that this was what the enduring appeal was years later.

Sleep Kicks don’t sound like A-Ha, of course, although the same basic musical elements are there, not least of all something of an anthemic 80s feel (although that’s more In the vein of The Alarm or Simple Minds and bands with a more overtly mainstream ‘rock’ style). ‘No Chains’ picks up were they left off last year, and they’ve been honing the contrasting elements. The song is dark, but also light, with layers of guitar and a full production that gives it an expansive feel, but it is, also, without question, a killer pop tune with an immense chorus that’s bold and uplifting, with a sweeping choral backing, which makes for a big, fat, juicy earworm.

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