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Our three budding journalists were given three albums to listen and review during October and this is what they think.

Cosmo Jarvis- Is The World Strange or Am I Strange?

Solo artists come and go in this day and age. They seem to get successful from one single, release an album which gets generally considerable sales and then they disappear from public view because they don't have many other ideas. Thank god that here we can find one with so many ideas- its nearly too many for one album! These songs aren't the middle-of-the-road compositions that have been created by such artists in the past as James Blunt and Morrison- there is loads of interesting things going on in each and every track. Take single "Sure As Hell Not Jesus" for an example. Beginning with a solo acoustic passage by Jarvis, the song suddenly erupts into a banjo ridden chorus with plenty of backing vocals and bouncing bass. As an avid filmmaker as well, Cosmo directs all his music videos himself and the video to this certain track covers a fairly controversial issue, priests and their claims to know and understand God more than anyone else, more than they know most people. Never afraid to push the boundries, the opening track's title sets things off to a mixed start "Gay Pirates". Slightly humorous, though using some violent imagery "I want one night with no gang rape but I wont hold my breath". Many of the lyrics raise questions throughout the album, including the wonder of Cosmo's actual sexuality. The epic "My Day" provides strong dynamic changes from loud to soft, at first sounding close to a screaming rock song. The album concludes with "Betty" the full length version of the final song on the "Sure As Hell Not Jesus" EP which was released to promote the single. Featuring many "movements", the song moves through different genres and tempos of guitar based music, at first starting with a two minute quirky indie-style number before it transcends into a slowed down reggae piece. It must be noted that throughout the album, Cosmo shows a great number of skills as a guitarist- much more than you would expect from such an unknown prodigy. "Betty" also includes a rap section which shows the artists clear intentions to mow down any musical boundaries that stand before him. The song end with a lovely acoustic section and fades into the abyss of musical history. Such a great start from a promising artist.

Nazca Lines- Hyperventilation

The second outing from Seattle rockers Nazca Lines was a totally unexpected listen. It was also something that was just handed to Mudkiss out of the blue and having never heard of the band at all, it was nice to find some new blood who were actually creating a respectful amount of noise. Taking influences from such bands as The Bronx, Blakfish and Rage Against The Machine (the album sounding like a combination of all three of those artists) the music changes from a straight forward riff-based rock to more complex math patches with ease. "Bones In Boxes" is the most obviously accessible track on the record, with lead singer Cory Alfano displaying his best punk-esque vocal style. With a straight forward riff and fist pumping drums this track shows the bands determination to just provide some of the most straight forward (but at the same time complex), rock n roll that a band have produced for a while. After the breakup of Blakfish, I doubted that any band would be able to top them in the math/rock genre. I was right but these could be strong contenders if they stick at what they do best. "This Crippled Devil" shows the band in a fast-moving punk splurge with a raged political lyric sheet to fit. "This Little Island", the opening track, begins with a heavily distorted (and fairly quiet) version of the initial music spread, before coming into focus full pelt just in time the singing to kick in. There are some areas of the album that lack excitement compared to the rest, but the initial feel is of something very different and very wanted nowadays.

Kasabian- Velociraptor!

Kasabian have always been one of those bands. They appear, the hype surrounding them is massive, the singles are bordering on acceptable, maybe even decent pop songs and then you buy the album and what you receive aren't enough colours in a palette to paint a "British guitar band" canvas. On the first album (and yes accept it, the best) Kasabian album we had dance infused with indie rock which gave them a moral standing at the NME awards and live they began to get noticed ect. The second album was more towards the rock side of things and songs such as "Shoot The Runner" and "Empire" had stadium-filler written across them. The third effort was more of a mellow, dare I say it, more Oasis look on the state of music today, but also saw the band coming into their own and becoming increasingly bigger. This then, the fourth effort- the band have certainly started to look a bit worn and torn. They're no longer "cool" anymore and are mainly being used to fill an Oasis shaped hole in peoples lives- a hole that I thankfully do not need filling myself. Take the cover art as the first point. Yes, its no evaluation on the musical content, but it looks good. Then you look at "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" by Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Then you look back. Kasabian have definitely been inspired this time round by one of the greatest bands of the last 30 years. Containing one of the greatest, if not THE greatest guitarist of the last 30 years. Both those tags do not fit, nor will they ever, in my eyes belong to Kasabian. Word spread on the release of this album, that this was the band being more "experimental" and interesting and less engaging with their fans. We were also told that we would get a straight up launch-off of an album opener and that has not happened. "Lets Roll Like We Used To" is a pleasent listen for around the first verse and chorus. Then you realise there's no real experimental elements here, and this surely isn't a brilliant opening track. Its a slow durge through nothingness, with an orchestra and brass elements used just so they can say that like Biffy Clyro, they are making the next step into British stadium rock. Except Biffy Clyro aren't dull, expressionless and plodding along at the same pace all the time. "Days Are Forgotten" is a decent enough single with a chorus that sure as hell did stay in my head for a day after hearing it, so thats doing its job at least. However, "Velociraptor" is just DZ Deathrays' "Rad Solar", slowed down and without the teenage angst involved. It just seems like Kasabian's number is up- and in fact it was a good few years ago. "Club Foot" and "Processed Beats" were the big guns and they ran out of ammo a few years back. A MUSE like synth line proceeds "Switchblade Smiles" and a bizarre scream cracks the air, taking out any serious outlook that could have been applied to such a track. Yes, Kasabian are trying, I can't deny them that. But if you want to hear experimentation from a band listen to "Blackened Sky" by Biffy Clyro. Then listen to "The Virtigo Of Bliss". The change of that band within a year is amazingly inspirational. Anything from "Ok, Computer" by Radiohead also shows more skilled experimentation and charisma than Kasabian have done, playing the plastic spoon in a drawer full of elegant cutlery.

by Callum Barnes

Circus Envy – Secrets

The album, ‘Secrets’ by Circus Envy is a softly rolling and positive effort from the alternative folk five piece from East Yorkshire. Taking their name from an REM track, it seems poignant to review a band that takes strong influences from the group that have recently disbanded. Although the album is generally folk influenced and shines with acoustic and minimalist roots, there are clear REM harmonies thrown into the mix through, evidently through the track, ‘Regret’. Lyrically and melodically the album really shines throughout the middle of the album and it’s clear that they’ve taken influence from more classic artists from previous eras. Although lead singer shows promise of strong yet soft vocals, he rarely varies from the same sound and the album can become monotonous just over half way in. Most promisingly, Secrets shows maturity and yet again shows talent storming from the North. I truly believe that emotion is everything in music, no matter what that may be. As far as the country is concerned, the North is rising. Circus Envy are a band that seems to be relishing in success from this effort and have absolutely everything to be proud about. This mix of influences hit the album with a sense of originality. Well worth a listen for fans of acoustic folk.

The Wild Swans – The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years

The Wild Swans, unusually are a band that have been going for a since the late 80’s. Their fourth album, ‘The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years’ sees them storming and still going strong on their fourth effort. Instrumentally, the album shows hints of The Stone Roses and most notably James in their music, but it sounds as if they’ve merged the two to make a more contemporary sound. The track, ‘Chloroform’ is a definite highlight to fans of early 2000 post-punk, as it’s reminiscent to bands such as Interpol and The Editors. It’s clear from listening to the album as a whole that the band are living in the past, not that that is a bad thing. The fact that they are still going strong and using influences from their past and present shows that they are still looking to move forward and create a more modern and exciting sound. Paul Simpson’s vocals still sound as good as they ever did, and now they find themselves building that around him. Although they may be quite simple, it appears that even through age, he’s finding no limitations on this album.

Airship – Stuck In This Ocean

After being locked away in the Manchester recording studio and relentlessly gigging since their formation in 2008, Airship have been very conscious about recording an album before they are ready. Now as they emerge with their album, ‘Stuck In This Ocean’, I have a feeling this won’t disappoint. Opening with haunting sounds of high pitched singing echoing through the stereo, first track Algebra is a true British anthem in every sense of the word. Much like bands like Cherry Ghost and The Editors, who they have joined on tour many a time, they have produced a tune which could be played in stadiums. The music itself is that to be proud of. The album shows signs of wonderful instrumentals and highlights the band’s talent and connection together. Elliot Williams’ vocals are a joy to hear, with a strong range from high to low that strangely work within tracks such as Kids, which has in fact been played by BBC 6 Music and Radio 1. Airships have created a true masterpiece of any sense, and have created it at the perfect stage of their development and maturity. This band are an the straight path for success. If this band aren’t selling out shows by the end of next year then I will be very surprised. This is one of the most promising albums I have heard in a long time and is worth every minute of your time.

by Josh Nicol

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwig

American Goldwig is the sixth album that has been the product of Oregon country-folk rockers, Blitzen Trapper. Lead singer, Eric Earely could easily be compared to Bob Dylan, a clichéd comparison but true nonetheless. Earely’s voice echoes Dylan, yet he has created a true and original sound of his own. The title, American Goldwig, refers to a Honda Motorcycle and you can imagine driving just that whilst listening to this nostalgic record. It is brimming with fuzzy guitar, nonchalant harmonica and evocatively placed tambourine. There are glimpses of their last anthem album, Destroyer of the Void, but 2011 shows that Blitzen Trapper still are staying faithful to their original hauntingly successful sound. West Coast blues and Southern rock meets wonderfully in ‘Love the Way You Walk Away’, with gravely electric guitar and collected banjo and Earely channels his inner country-folk singer in the golden ‘My Home Town’. American Goldwig revives a real American 1970s dream.

The Duke Spirit - Bruiser

Bruiser is the third album from London based alt rockers, The Duke Spirit. The years since their 2008 success, Neptune, have been incredibly successful, filled with playing high profile slots alongside bands such as Queens of the Stone Age. Their new album is full of soothing harmonies, juxtaposed with fantastic, hard hitting riffs. Leila Moss proves her front woman skills are spot on with a strong vocal. The Duke Spirit are masters of tempo, ‘Sweet Bitter Sweet’s change in crescendo throughout gives you something you’d not expect, it’s thrilling bridge gives the song substance and energy. The ‘Surrender’ is delightfully memorable with a quite charming intro.  But best of all is ‘Villain’ with a stripped back PJ Harvey-esque piano and glistening strums of a guitar make it a surprisingly pleasing listen, laden with emotion and attitude. Although The Duke Spirit took their time to write this album, it was definitely worth the wait.

by Lydia Evans

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