In these times of the surge of mainstream popularity towards nu-folk (Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes), it is easy to overlook other folk musicians who do not get thrust into the limelight because they appear to be slightly "indie" or something that you can get teenagers into easily. Marissa Nadler is one of many overlooked musicians who does not seem to fit the bill of what the masses want to hear, but to music lovers, she comes across as much better than the popular alternative. This self-titled fifth release shows her expand her dreamy, folky roots and is her first album since the release of 2009's "Little Hells". At only thirty, Marissa has obviously been busy in order to get five albums under her belt.
Album opener "In Your Lair, Bear" introduces us to Marissa's strong, breathy vocals, which range from a deafening whisper, to strong and high pitched. Her skills as a guitarist are not questioned as the first song opens with a consistent finger-picking pattern which then evolves as the song progresses. The use of strings in the chorus' present us with a fuller sound than that of many solo artists today, and the typical folk genre stereotype of characterising animals and seasons comes through strongly in the lyrics. "The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You" is a perfect summer "anthem" even, perfect for listening to at this time of year, you can hear Marissa's sorrow at letting this person go, and how this time of year in particular has a strong significance in her past life. "Albastar Queen" is a fully solo effort, with the image of Nadler and her guitar on the top of a mountain, singing this song quietly to the world. The eerie "Wedding" presents us with an almost electronic feel through the use of wind-like effects and a spinning drum score. This is continued in "Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning", in which beeps and whistles are used to fill up the soundless background. As one of the first less-commercialised folk artists I have heard, this presents a very positive starting point. http://www.marissanadler.com
As a band who strongly play hard, sludgy grunge which contributes greatly to the current revival of the genre, Japanese Voyeurs debut album was always going to be something to look out for. Since hearing "Milk Teeth" in March of this year, I have been waiting with baited breath for them to announce a release date for "Yolk" their first full-length. The album opener "You're So Cool" throws us right in at the deep end, with a strong drum intro followed by destructively distorted guitars which only let up for the chorus in which lead singer and female Romily Alice moans the title track in an almost victimised manner. As stories seemingly about being bullied back at school go, this is extremely powerful. "Big Cheese" features a prominent bass line, something which was lacking from early recordings by the band.(It is also the words written on the back of Romily's guitar). It seems like each member is coming into their own as the drumming is awesomely heavy in singles "Cry Baby" and then again "Milk Teeth". The band wouldn't be the same without Romily's voice, (ranging from a howl to a screech, to childlike innocence and snarling hatred), however and her sometimes cringey lyricisms, "Mary, Mary, virgin Mary, sit with your legs crossed, does she ever wanna take that habit, rip that fucker off" she snarls in the re-worked "Dumb". "Smother Me" is Nirvana's "Come As You Are", slowed down and with two guitars tearing into it. Surprisingly, softer moments do show up in the latter half of the record. "That Love Sound" is a single released by the band last year, one of their earlier recordings, putting the listener in an eerie mood as the sound builds from a simple guitar chord progression to a full blown shout. "Heart Is a Fist" sees keyboardist Rikki providing backing to Romily in angel-like mode, with her strong, childlike vocal, his seemingly only consistent appearance on the album, due to his usual synth tones being drowned out by the heavy distortion overload. It is obvious that the right singles were picked from this album, "Milk Teeth" features a full drums-blown build-up and then a screaming chorus of "FRESH, FRESH, FRESH MEAT" while, "Cry Baby" by far outstrips every other track due to its extremely strong and headbanging-worthy chorus. There is sometimes the problem of some tracks sounding very similar due to similar tempo's in the slower tracks, however this is a good start for the London 5 piece and I hope to hear much more from them in the future, as they evolve. http://japanesevoyeurs.com
Heights - Dead Ends
"The people we used to be, are dead to you and me. The people we used to be, are dead ends, are dead. ENDS!" screams frontman Thomas Debaere on Heights' latest single "Dead Ends". Since the mid-2000's hardcore has become a more well known genre in the mainstream due to the success of punkers Gallows and bands such as The Bronx from the states. It still remains, however, to be an underground musical movement and Heights are one of the bands that have been around for a while within that scene. Forming in 2007, it's surprising that they have only just released their debut this year, due to relentless touring for the large amount of their career. Album opener "We Live Alone" is an intro that lasts under two minutes. With the opening fragment of suspended, and heavily down-tuned, chords, we get a taste of what we will expect all through the album with bellows, smashing cymbals and heavy sliding guitars. "Oceans" presents gang shouting mixed with heavy riffery and an almost-melodic mock outro before the band slam back into the chorus at a much slower pace, but with more intensity, leaving what feels like a "hardcore beatdown". The final bars of "We Live Alone" and "Letting Go" show the introduction of the keyboard as a staple instrument in the albums DNA. This shows a strong influence from Gallows as "Orchestra Of Wolves" featured a melodic use of keyboards as a breakup from the much harder stuff, which is the aim that Heights are going for here. This kind of musical beauty mixed with destruction via electric guitars, shouldn't really work, but it does here and thats what makes this album stand out among other's of it's genre. "The Lost And Alone" is probably the bands anthem, due to the strong gang shouts of "We are, we are, the lost and alone. We are, we are, never fucking going home", carrying on the rock n roll tradition that teenagers hate their parents and places of origin and therefore joined hardcore bands to shout at everything and everyone. The strongest song on the album is clear from the off "Eye For An Eye", the first single to be released from the record, features two minutes of strong fast moving riffery and verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure before the whole band get sucked into hell, and the drums become heavier, as do the guitars and the ultimate mosh soundtrack is unleashed. As with most bands similar to Heights, towards the end of the album the riffs do seem to echo previous songs but this is unavoidable in a game where you want to have a signature sound that people can recognise you buy. Angry guys, awesome album. http://www.facebook.com/heightsuk
Robots In Disguise – Happiness V Sadness
Robots In Disguise, otherwise known as the project of vocalists Dee Plume and Sue Denim, are and English group based around electronic and punk influences and apply this to their fourth and latest effort. Lead single and opening track, 'Chains' is a bustling pop track that easily sets the tone for the rest of the album with the proceeding 10 tracks following in a similar light. The catchy pop tracks seem to be prevalent throughout the album and the revolving musicians seem to create a sense of sophistication with various contributions, most noticeable on the song 'Hey Watcha Say' where the lyrics lack quality but the drums towards the latter half seem to bring the track back on form.
The vocals on the album are simple and minimalist just like every great female punk band, however, around half way through on the track, 'Let's Get Friendly', the album becomes rather tedious as the vocals may not appeal to everyone and become more teeny-pop than electro-punk. The instrumentals on the album cannot be criticised as the production and efforts from all involved are clearly that of incredible passion and effort. This album will have mixed reviews. You'll either love it, or you will hate it. Electro fans may like the style, but if you're looking for punk then this is not for you. It is definitely more The Ting Tings than Siouxsie and the Banshees. http://www.myspace.com/robotsindisguise
China Shop Bull – Rave To The Grave
High energy punk anthems and spitting and spluttering vocals enough to scare your Grandma out of her house certainly everything this album is about. The album is heavy and punky with ska and reggae influences appearing through early in the album on the track 'Serotonin Bomb'. The track is storming with brass instruments contrasting the heavy guitar riffs and vocals. Hints of Pendulum and Sonic Boom Six mixed in one can be heard on this track.
The album is one that will not be loved by everyone. The vocals can seem somewhat pretentious when you hear a British band rapping and singing with strong American accents, albeit very poorly. The band clearly have high musical talent, which is made apparent from tracks such as 'Sandblaster' with the euphoric drum sounds and riffs like any good, heavy, modern punk band.
The album is nothing that I would ever listen to myself but I can see how fans of band such as The Skints would love this band. You definitely can't criticise them for their energy and the efforts they have put into this album. It has intentions of mixing genres and exploring new ways of incorporating them into one style. I admire their efforts. Yet, it seems somehow awfully contrived and pretentious. http://www.myspace.com/chinashopbulluk
Filthy Nights are a rock/indie band from the South East of England. Clearly drawing their influences from modern indie such as The Enemy and Hard-Fi and even going back to the old Modfathers, The Jam. The band are full of energy and hit the listeners right in the face with storming riffs and old school punk enough to take you back to The Sex Pistols and The Clash style of British punk rock. The lead singers vocals are not at all magnificent but the swagger of his presence is evident through the sound of his voice in tracks such as 'Amateur Camera'. '(If You're An) Animal' is a track reminiscent of The Sex Pistols with vocals similar to John Lydon's sneers and screams. Guitar solos seem all too common in this album but this does indeed show off their musical ability. The album is quite clever lyrically, with tracks such as 'Sally in the Alley' providing a story of grubby urban street life and prostitution, presumably of where they come from.
The most impressive thing aspect of the album is the fact that it is self-produced. If You Only Knew is an album with fantastic production of which the band should be proud of. The band are slightly behind the times, it sounds more 2005 than contemporary indie, but they have created a half decent record with a successful sound. Perhaps they have a lot of time to expand and progress. A solid effort from a solid band. http://www.myspace.com/thesefilthynights
Barricades Rise - All I Have Is Here
Despite using obvious chord formations for their music, Barricades Rise are far from your typical folk band. ‘All I Have Is Here’ is a whimsical collection of songs, never short of cohesive harmonies. The opening track, ‘Animals’ is well polished yet slightly rusty. The vocals are full of sorrow and unexplainable emotions; it’s not the lyrics that stand out, but the quality of the voice. Barricades Rise prove to be confident, but quietly so. The track ‘Folk Songs and Jazz Bands’ has interesting changes in tempo with a crescendo of guitar and banjo. Indeed, the use of instruments somewhat remind me of the band Beirut. Jonathan Coates’ howls are haunting and heartfelt in each and every track. These friends have the potential to linger in many a mind, they have all the makings of a successful folk band. Their variation of song lengths definitely add to the making of the diverse and timeless album. www.barricadesrise.co.uk
The Frontier Needs Heros – The Future
In recent years fantastic duo bands have been formed such as She&Him, Slow Club and Summer Camp... and The Frontier Needs Heros definitely deserves to be mentioned together with those named above. Brother and sister, Brad and Jessica sing textured harmonies. ‘The Future’ is a collection of cynical love stories which is break from cliché break up records. At first glance The Frontier Needs Heros seems to be a band with little use of instruments, completely stripped back, but there is true substance to these siblings. Brad’s vocals channel those of Noah and the Whales’ Charlie Fink, which can only be a good thing. The song ‘Key West’ is an example of different elements incorporated, an electric guitar is used to create Hawaiian inspired shimmering notes and the song ‘Dirt Road’ features a Bob Dylan-esque harmonica. One of the alluring qualities of this album is the fact that it’s been written in mostly major, yet the lyrics suggest anything but happiness; “How does it feel to be alone?”Ever increasing duo alt-folk bands could possibly suggest a turn in new folk. Some say “Three is a crowd” and the listener is that third person when listening to The Frontier Needs Heros, and this crowd is exciting and fresh. www.facebook.com/thisfrontierneedsheroes
Foster the People – Torches
Torches is opened with ‘Helena Beat’ an addictive tune full of vigor. It is no wonder that Foster the People have been compared to MGMT, their music is just as neo-psychedelic. The energetic single ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is doing remarkably well in America and is expected to be just as successful in Britain. Their sound is captivating, memorable and modern. Each and every song has endearing qualities. The vocals remind me of a trifle with many layers, quenching even the most picky of ears. Mark Foster’s voice is soulful and fervid. ‘Don’t stop (colour on the walls)’ is rather busy yet it sounds exciting rather than chaotic. The album is unique enough to appeal to those searching for something bright and bold that is full of quirk; however it also appeals to anyone as it’s essentially very clever pop music. Torches is a fix for any individual who is in need of some promising light in this dark-tunnel genre that people call pop. www.fosterthepeople.com