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SINGLE REVIEW: Cold Culprits – ‘My Sweetest Friend’

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The thing about Cold Culprits, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, is that you never quite know what’s coming next. And this is yet another example of that.

Instead of his (for those of you that don’t know Cold Culprits is one person Andy Watson) usual NY punky influence output this is something indie and poppy. It’s pop with an indie edge as opposed to indie-pop. There’s a difference. It kinda harks back to 60s’ guitar pop. It does that great thing – you can dance to it and sit down and listen to it; I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes music that does that.

The first thing to say is that this track has a tune that is so damn earwormy. It’s so earwormy that I’ve begun to curse Andy for writing such a catchy tune; I just can’t get it out of my head.

The music is guitar led with hints of a violin sound in there. There are some snazzy little guitar touches but these sit in the background – this is no rock song. And over this Andy sings the sweetest vocals; nowhere to be heard is his usual punky sneery vocal. They are a joy, and a surprise. There’s something else about this track that makes it stand out, and that’s the sound of sorrow, of sadness, in both the music and the vocals. There’s a bittersweet feel.

Andy says about the song “I’m not entirely sure where this song came from. It’s the product of a freezing cold January, stuck in a house with no double glazing. I usually start the writing on an old acoustic guitar, trying out chord combinations and working on lyrics. For My Sweetest Friend, I just had this feeling. Sort of uneasy and empty. I wrote a few words around it, then played arpeggios on the electric guitar, rising and descending relentless notes. It all sort of fell into place pretty quickly from there, but getting the right violin sounds for the ending is a whole different story.”

This was a surprise, a wonderful surprise, but then I’m getting used to Andy doing that. I love a great pop song and this is very definitely that. We all need some great pop in our lives – in all it’s many forms – and this is fits that need perfectly.

The info

This release from North Yorkshire indie rock solo artist, Cold Culprits, follows on from January’s release of ‘Great Escape’.

Cold Culprits, aka Andy Watson, formed a band in 2018 to focus on original and cover material. When this evolved into a pure indie rock covers band, Andy needed an outlet for his creativity. He learned drums and keyboards to underpin his vocals and guitar, and Cold Culprits was born. After a string of singles in 2020, Cold Culprits begins 2021 with a tighter, more polished approach.

EP REVIEW: Archie Baker – ‘Adult Fiasco’

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Archie’s EP has been a long time coming; originally due in December and delayed I assume due to Covid. The thing is that I’ve actually had access to it since August last year, and have grown rather attached to it.

Archie’s music is somewhere in that Nu-Soul/Neo-Soul area; he sometimes throws a little Afrobeat and Latin into the mix. He’s even given to putting in something that may surprise; we’ll get to that.

EP opener ‘Holiday’ was released back in August last year. I reviewed it than, here’s what I thought:

it’s a mix of soul, funk, jazz and, just to mix it up and add something, a kind of Afrobeat/Latin thing going on. It starts, as any song about a holiday should as far as I’m concerned, in a slow languid jazzy mode with Archie’s laid-back vocals before it builds into a blazing hot dance track. Sax solo, frantic beat, stabbing keyboards. The playing is great and there’s frankly gorgeous backing vocals. It sounds like a holiday – the best holiday you’ve ever had. Lazy days and fun filled nights dancing until you collapse – in fact the lyrics indicate that it’s the kind of holiday where you sleep all day.. And it’s cool, way way cool.

Jazz piano and sax opens ‘Cyclone’. It’s smooth, way smooth. Archie’s voice drifts out. There’s more frankly gorgeous sax. But as befits a song named after a storm it becomes more strident. Archie suddenly snarls out the words in what of all things sounds similar to The Clash. It is strange but at the same time wonderfully atmospheric. The contrast between that snarly voice and the oh so smooth music is compelling.

‘Part Of Me’ features Chloe Beth Rogers on lead vocal. It’s that classic Nu-Soul sound. You’ll hear Chloe doing backing vocals on the other tracks which will give you a hint of what her voice is capable of, but here she bloody flies, her voice is fantastic. And that suddenly Archie pulls out a wonderful guitar break. Beautiful.

Archie throws reggae into the mix on ‘If You Love Me’. The dual vocals of Archie and Chloe positively sizzle. There’s great sax, wonderful organ, a hot guitar solo. It’s wild, wild throwing yourself around the room music. Hot, hot, hot.

The EP’s closing track ‘Arrogance’ is another surprise. Think The Jam, think The Style Council. Not only does this have a great tune but some electrifying guitar. The ending is yet another surprise – a jazzy breakdown.

While different the songs on this EP have something that marks these out as Archie Baker songs. A huge grasp of song craft – he sure knows how to put a song together. The playing from the various musicians on this EP is outstanding; focusing down on the individual sounds you can hear that. But it’s the whole sound that Archie has drawn together into something very very special. It almost feels understated, you get the idea that they all could have gone much much wilder but it’s all the more impressive for being understated, there’s a power in that. And it’s compelling and never boring. However many times you listen to the songs you’ll hear something new.

This is an incredibly impressive collection of songs. A must listen.

The info

Archie Baker is a London-born, Sheffield-based alternative soul & blues musician.

Having moved to Sheffield in 2016, Archie joined a popular soul and blues function band as a guitarist. Whilst playing weddings, summer balls and parties Archie found his niche as a vocalist and began to write his own music. With help from talented musicians around the scene, he developed a style of music suitable for his distinctive vocal style.

Archie’s music can be characterised by a strong blues and rock foundation with flourishes of funk and soul dusted throughout the sound – creating an eclectic and fresh flavour of modern soul & blues.

Archie is also a member of the rock-fusion band ALSKA. The music in ALSKA differs from Archie’s own music in that it focuses on fusion and energy, but still features his distinctive guitar and vocal work scattered amongst the band’s vast soundscape.

SINGLE REVIEW: Caroline & The Lights – ‘Once Or Twice’

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Caroline & The Lights are new to me; I’ve been missing out big time. If you’re already on that train, I can only be somewhat jealous of you. So this review is going to be coming at the band from the point of view of a newbie.

The band describe themselves as ‘always melodramatic’, and this is no different. ‘Once Or Twice’ drips with a dark moody atmosphere, a gothic theatricality. it’s haunting, it’s powerful. Musically it’s hard to pin down but I’m going to give it a go. I get hints of early Kate Bush, Hazel O’Connor, a touch of Sparks, and something of a slow jazzy cabaret feel. And this is a very personal thing, it reminds me of ‘Angie’ by The Rolling Stones (listen you’ll see) and possibly strangely of the slower songs in Rocky Horror musically.

And it’s hugely ‘visual’ music. I can’t help visualising a moody black and white video, set in a smoky empty elegant cocktail bar, atmospheric shots of empty streets.

If you pinned me into a corner and insisted I come up with a snappy description – and that’s something I hate to do with music this good – I’d say ‘it’s an Art-Pop torch song’.

The thing that is going to hit you right between the ears is Caroline’s voice. She has a voice that’s powerful, emotional and capable of going from a whisper to a piercing note. And that voice is singing great words, that tell a story of unrequited love, words that tug at your heart.

But while her voice is up front it’s backed by music that is sophisticated and compliments Caroline’s voice and the song completely. The song is piano led with touches of guitar and violin, huge soaring swells of sound that pull you emotionally this way and then that way.

This is music of a kind that I haven’t heard in more years than I care to think about; music that is unashamedly emotional, dark and moody, that cares not for not being of a genre of now because it’s timeless. I hadn’t realised quite how much I’d missed music like this.

This is a beautiful coming together of a great song, and scarily brilliant vocals and music. I love this song, I am addicted and obsessed, this is just so good it hurts.

The info

Written and performed by Caroline & The Lights.

Guitar – Tom Caunt
Cello – Mike Andrew
Bass – Liam Hill
Drums – Joshua Steven
Piano and vocals – Caroline
Strings – Caroline
Backing vocals – Caroline
Songwriter, composer, arrangement – Caroline

Produced, mixed, and mastered by Paul Tuffs

https://www.facebook.com/carolineandthelights

SINGLE REVIEW: Liam Sullivan – ‘Be Kind’

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What you expect from Liam is a fantastically written lyric, a great vocal and music that is so well put together it hurts; ‘Be Kind’ is no exception to this.

It is however different to the last release I reviewed ‘When This Is Over’ (Read our review). The sound is fuller, more complex, powerful, and it’s darker in feel. What this doesn’t do is to detract from the fact that this song has the most earwormy and singalong tune. I’d describe it as a big, big ballad. You’ll find yourself singing along I promise, I did.

Liam says’ The song uses the stark contrast of bleak city scapes and vast natural landscapes to highlight the journey from dark to light that the listener is guided through as the song progresses’. So although the song feels darker, the journey you go on listening to the song is one of hope, of a journey to happiness and a simpler life.

The arrangement is full on – layers of guitar – acoustic and electric, and sparse but hugely effective drums, there are even what we could describe as power chords. But there are moments of delicate lead guitar, periods of acoustic and voice that tread lightly and beautifully across your ears. Musically it rewards repeated listening. And the music never overwhelms the vocals, and this is important because the words are fantastic and Liam’s vocal is so-so good.

There are hints of folk, classic singer/songwriter, big classic pop ballad, AOR, even something kind of Celtic; if you need to know. I would rather call it beautifully written and put together music, but that’s me, it’s just not really a genre specific sort of thing.

Wonderful words, a great vocal and fantastic musically. It is a truly beautiful thing.

The info

‘Be Kind’ was written back in 2016 whilst Liam was travelling around Europe, the powerful imagery and lyricism we have come to expect from Liam are more prevalent than ever.

Liam has been writing, recording and performing music for well over a decade, being part of many different outfits before going solo in 2015. Since then he has been playing with his own band and together they have been wowing audiences with their compelling performances. Liam is a mesmerising performer who never fails to give his all when playing his songs.

EP REVIEW: Adam John Fraser & The Viper Mad – ‘Rough & Ready’

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I, as you can probably imagine, listen to a lot of new music; so much that at times I have to take a break from new music to immerse myself in old favourites just to get ‘musically grounded’. Sometimes I have to listen to something two or three times before it clicks, and sometimes it’s just the once – that’s if it’s going to click with me. And then there’s music that passes the ‘10 second test’, and this EP did that. Seconds into the first track I was hooked, man I was completed hooked. I was buzzing.

Adam John Fraser & The Viper Mad play garage blues. It’s raw, it’s loose, at times it’s wonderfully gloriously on the edge – the very edge – of falling apart. It’s gonna rock your world people.

The band have their own thing going but hey there’s things in it that remind me of people I love; Roky Erickson and Randy California – sometimes it creeps over into that psychedelic blues rock sound, Green On Red, The Godfathers. Perhaps predictably Seasick Steve and ZZ Top. Strangely, and perhaps weirdly, Camper Van Beethoven – that sound is more obvious on a couple of Adam’s more acoustic songs that are not on this EP (See below for a link).

Let’s dive in. Opening track ‘Knight, Death & The Devil’ is dirty, swampy, southern gothic. The guitar goes from blues licks to outrageous. Vocals are shouted, chanted. Drums are just right; solid, not too flashy. There’s a bass throb that just won’t give up. This is music played for the joy of making music, not something constructed to be perfect. But you see it’s perfect because it isn’t. It’s raucous. It’s a blast.

‘Party Song’ takes blues to garage rock. Yep, there’s a blues base there but it’s rockier. The guitar is way out there. It’s even kinda punky.

And then all of a sudden there’s ‘Rough & Ready’ which, although it might – as least it did to me – have you in mind of a Whitesnake sounding song, is actually something rather more, let’s say softer, than you might imagine. I say softer, it is, well it is to start with. It starts all subdued, gently plucked guitar, vocals that sing of a boy/girl thing. But then it’s rockier. It’s rockier to the end. It’s what you expect and it gives you that

‘\Walkin’ Blues’ is an out and out blues track. But somehow it’s more than that. It’s loose, it has sudden changes of tempo, guitar that just seems to hover around the beat but at the same time it’s locked into it. And then without warning it blasts into a slide guitar section played at breakneck speed. And then it just stops, But that’s great because it said all it needed to, why say more.

Closing track ‘Water & Gasoline’ is one of those blues tracks that builds and falls, and builds again. It builds from sparseness to dense slide guitar, falls to sparseness, repeat to climactic end. That dense growl of slide, way out there slide.

Musically this is a band that know their stuff. I have a huge thing for blues and blues influenced guitar players – especially those who play slide – and Adam can play, boy can he play.

And you’ll notice that I haven’t said anything about the words of these songs. This isn’t because they’re not good, they are. They are just in the style of the music. They say a lot with just a few words. And that is just as it should be.

It’s time for shoutout for the production – by Will Severs. The sound of this is not over produced, it’s like a band playing live, just the best live sound you’ve ever heard. It has that energy, that feel. And, that too, is just as it should be.

It’s important to say what they play isn’t blues rock, we all know what that is, and this isn’t that. It’s blues taken with a hint of late 60s’ garage rock, a touch of psychedelia, a dash of something punky, and a big hit of something that I can only imagine comes from Adam’s musical influences. And as I said at the top it’s loose, it’s raw, it’s filled with a joyful sound – the sound of music being played because they love playing it.

This, my friends, is something you need to get into your life, make it a part of your day, make time to play it. Play it loud. This is utterly fantastic.

The info

Adam hails from the snowy northern outpost of Ottawa and learned music by stealing his brother’s guitar and watching YouTube videos.

A tenure in London broadened his range by meeting up with the guys at Wasted Years Records who spotted his talents while cleaning the loos at Benito’s Hat (still the best burrito you will find). Sheffield was the anvil upon which his sound was hammered out.

Adam and The Viper Mad met up at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield where the spark was instantaneous. Songs he had waiting in his songbook finally became finished works and new inspiration flowed like strong northern ale. The Viper Mad are the missing piece that Adam had been searching for these many years for. Recorded at Fox Den Studios in Sheffield by Will Severs the tracks rattle and hum like a well oiled machine.

Vocals and Guitar: Adam John Fraser
Bass: Alexander Schmidt
Drums: Richard Howie

Guitar arrangements and lyrics were written by Adam John Fraser. Bass arrangements were written by Alexander Schmidt. Drum arrangements were written by Richard Howie. Recorded at Fox Den Studios, Sheffield by Will Severs. Cover art by Leigh Mullens.

Website: https://adamjohnfraser.com

And while you’re at it check these out

SINGLE REVIEW: Oh Papa – ‘Take What’s Given’

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Over the lockdown I’ve found myself turning to two types of music time and time again; loud, raw, raucous rock that can take me to oblivion, and more contemplative, richer songs that take me mentally to another place or make me think.

‘Take What’s Given’ falls into the second of these two. It takes as its theme something that is very applicable to our currently locked down lives, but – and this crucial – can be applied to many other situations we find ourselves in. The band explain ‘Take What’s Given addresses solitude and mortality. Written during a period living alone, it’s main themes are the sense of impending doom that time can inflict, how that can make the ordinary seem extraordinary, and how companionship could be the solution. The refrain ‘take what’s given’ is a way of expressing the necessity to take each day as it comes’.

So that’s what the song is about, what does it sound like? Well it’s actually quite a lot in that Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter style – acoustic guitar, lovely touches of organ. Think Crosby, Stills and Nash, but just with the one voice. And it’s light, this track says as much in the spaces as it does in the sounds. Musically it feels like being in your favourite cosy place. It’s calming, it makes you feel peaceful.

And given the lightness of the music, the vocals and the words are upfront. The vocals are a thing of joy. And the words are fantastic – meaningful, demanding closer listening but at the same time wonderfully singalong; these words are oh so catchy.

The thing I love about this is that it’s timeless; it could quite easily have been released in the late 60s, early 70s, and at any time right up until now. And into the future, music like this doesn’t age.

This is a lovely song, a really lovely song. Musically it’s fantastic, lyrically it’s going to make you think. Who needs anything more?

The info

Recorded during a break in the national lockdowns, ‘Take What’s Given’ sees Oh Papa return to Tesla Studios with frequent collaborator David Glover, featuring additional Hammond organ from Bennett Holland.

VIDEO SINGLE NEWS: New Terminal Boy share ‘Angry Young Men’

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Leeds based band New Terminal Boy have dropped a video single – ‘Angry Young Men’. The band say:

‘Angry Young Men’ is taken from our album ‘Nowhere; Now Here’. A stomping, rocking dissection of toxic masculinity, fascist snowflakes and insta-culture, now with added visual magnificence for fans of Italian avant-garde cinema!

We say:

A raw raucous slab of punky rock. Growling guitars, snarling vocals, shouted backing vox. It has that hard edge of early punk, with a dash of post-punk for good measure. And you can stomp dance to it. Bloody wonderful.

And while you’re at it, check out the album. It’s a glorious mix of punk, post-punk, alt-rock and indie-rock.

The album is available from Bandcamp

The band are:

Neil Williams – vocals, acoustic guitar
Giuseppe Perniola – electric and acoustic guitars
Bryan Lund – bass, backing vocals
Jon Bull – drums

https://www.facebook.com/newterminalboy

VIDEO NEWS: Fran Minney drops video for ‘Normal’

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Fran Minney has dropped a video for her beautiful song – and current single – ‘Normal’ (read our review). The video was filmed live at Hackfall Woods.

SINGLE NEWS: Scenius drop remixes of ‘Make It Shiny’

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Scenius have released two remixes of their single ‘Make It Shiny’ (taken from their debut album ‘Enough Fears’ – read our review). The track has been remixed by Klammer – purveyors of post-punk wonderfulness – and Nature of Wires – a UK based synthpop/darkwave artist.

I was just going to do a news piece but I can’t resist a mini-review here.

The Klammer remix

Klammer have turned what was already a dark and moody track into something altogether more foreboding, and at times scary. There’s this feel of ‘there’s something not good around the corner’. And yes, there are the sounds of post-punk electronica, there are what sounds like slashing guitars. And this is very definitely on the rock side of post-punk.

Stream/download: https://wiseband.lnk.to/Scenius-Make-It-Shiny-Klammer-remix

The Nature of Wires remix

Nature of Wires have added something darker, and dance. There’s something about this that positively insists you throw some shapes. And it’s somehow sparser than the original, it sounds stripped back and harder.

Stream/download: https://wiseband.lnk.to/Scenius-Make-It-Shiny-Nature-Of-Wires-remix

These are great examples of how a remix can change the nature of a track completely. Go listen.

SINGLE REVIEW: The Hazy Janes – ‘Yellow Belly Blues’

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Halifax based The Hazy Janes do heavy blues based rock, I say heavy I mean heavy, really heavy. You may have imagined that they play, oh I don’t know, psychedelic tinged rock with a name like that, you’d be wrong.

These guys play loud, they don’t hold back. So dense is their sound that you forget it’s just guitar and drums. Sorry that’s something I forgot to mention before, The Hazy Janes are a duo; something I found hard to believe the first time I heard the track, and continue to disbelieve.

It’s a while, a long while, since I heard a heavy blues-rock band play this heavy. And it comes with a huge spoonful of old-style blues-rock, and yet there’s something more of now there. Look honestly who cares how we describe this, it’s an absolute fucking joy.

As there only two of them – I keep having to tell myself that – you’d hear if the playing wasn’t good. These two are good. The riffs are perfection itself, the small blasts of out-there sound are great. The drums are fab; they fill in the spaces but not too much, and there’s subtlety there. And they lock together like crazy. And the vocals, the vocals are fantastic.

Look stop reading this right now, crank it up to eleven, and fucking rock out.

The info

Formed in late-2020, the Hazy Janes are a two-piece outfit featuring Ellis Best (Vocals & Guitar) and Bron Bury (Drums). The band draw influence from acts such as The Doors, The Dead Weather, and the Black Keys.

After crossing paths in 2016, the duo were drawn together by a mutual love of all things Jack White. Over the next four years, the two would regularly perform alongside one another on the same bill with their own respective bands: Ellis with Octopus and FREEK; Bron with Bigfoote and more recently Hunter-Gatherer. Fast forward to 2020, and the two began exchanging voice notes of song ideas, potential lyrics and, on many occasions, musings on the future of craft ales in post-Brexit Britain.

At the front, leading the charge of The Hazy Janes, is the roaring vocals of Ellis Best. Harnessing Ellis’ huge guitar sound and the thunder of Bron’s old school drum tones, the result is a sound far greater than the sum of its parts.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehazyjanes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheHazyJanes
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thehazyjanes/?hl=en

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