30/04/2013

What I’ve been listening to: I fear I may have jumped ship, or at least from the ‘new’. Keaton Henson just dropped his second album, Birthdays, and I’m not convinced on its sincerity, and now whether or not I can call myself a fan. I don’t know is this is me now just getting annoyed at how recognised the gentleman is becoming musically – having been a fan since his early artistic days of From Grace record covers (remember that?), Drop Dead and Topman shirts, etc., Henson was my hidden gem. So I’ve always been possessive in admiration of his work. To elaborate, it would appear that many people I know are now raving about his debut, Dear..., and backing that love up with the sudden release of Birthdays, stating it is equally as good – not keeping that love a secret like I did, but more so because... I don’t like Birthdays. I don’t get ‘it’.

To brief, I feel Henson has hit a brick wall and we’re left with a one trick pony. The subject matter of his songs have not really evolved, as he is still playing to the same audience, in the same manner, but now simply with a backing band. The music played seems less complex, and more filling for the words – as if Dear... should be the breakthrough sophomore record. We’re left to listen to more sorrow and heartfelt woe with no ground development or addition; this time with no signifying or key phrases that really grab you.

What rather frustrated me, in fact, having already felt a little let down was Henson almost half mocks what people idolise about him with lines like “You son of a b****, stop writing songs like this, you think you’re better than them now, but they don’t have to pretend” (‘Kronos’) – to me, that’s possibly his old flame telling him to grow up, and to not glorify his misfortune and teenage misery that many go through and not ‘moan’ about. ‘Kronos’ itself is my favourite track off Birthdays, and is a grungy roll of thunder, but not really ‘enough’; the album is full of experiments that don’t quite pay off. Zane Lowe called ‘Kronos’ a “wonderful and remarkable surprise”, but with regards to the entire record, released several months after this quote, it’s just ‘Kronos’ that attracts attention. In anticipation, I was getting somewhat enraged by the negative reviews of Birthdays by big music critics, seeing 5/10, or three starts, but I can see why, and it’s almost as sad as Henson’s previous music… The lesson I’ve learnt here is that patience is a virtue.

It was like a b-side or demo tape that he was forced into rushing and releasing to keep a roof over his head. I suppose I was expecting a lot more from an artist as talented as Henson.

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Sophomore dropped a new record recently, and called it The Blue – the name taken from the opening line of the record, in ‘Young Adult’ we hear “Fell into the blue!” belted out to us after an intrinsic and delightful melodic introduction. For those who don’t know, and sadly I feel that’ll be the case of many, Sophomore if the side-project for Alex Sears, frontman to pop-punk titans Decade – whom I can’t seem to shut up about.

It’s amazing what a teenage boy can do in his bedroom when one is “lonely in [his] room” (‘Young Adult’), and isn’t tempted by apathy – the entire record was self-recorded, with Sears engineering every instrument himself too, the end product being an alt. rock chunk of gold, with a little emo sparkle. The likes of Rock Sound are even fully backing this project; hailing him as one of “Britain’s most promising songwriters”, and it’s easy to see (or hear, rather) why. His music is deep, relatable, and inviting in his angst, which is the key – it’s a mood changer; a thinker. Critics claim The Blue is a “punchy effort”, acknowledging he is trying something different, which always takes time to perfect. Then, reading more reviews, I see the words ‘deep’, ‘infectious’, and ‘emotionally charged’ dropped time and time again.
“Sophomore is more or less just a way to flex my creative muscles. I love having the option to write any style of music that I want, without the restraint that you might get with a full band each with their own voice and opinion. The songs on this EP are about a number of different things that have been going on in my life over the past couple of months or so. The beauty of writing and recording your own music by entirely your own means is that you can share your feelings and emotions with someone instantly; I could write a song today and put it out tomorrow while the theme of the song is still fresh in my mind. It's a good way to vent for sure"
- Alex Sears
It’s a shame, in a sense, that Sophomore (despite not being too different in style) will never stand alone, and away, from Decade, in the same way, Frank Carter will always have Gallows mentioned in the introduction to Pure Love pieces/articles, because it deserves to be seen as a separate ‘entity’. Even Richard Carter, his younger brother, would’ve had the fact that two of his older brothers were of Gallows fame before Blackhole, his own band, are mentioned – I don’t even know if they’re still going actually... But! Nonetheless... Conclusion: It’s superb! Be sure to check it out, and download it, for free over at his Bandcamp page: click here.

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That new Fall Out Boy album is pretty sweet too, isn’t it?

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Everyone has that one person they wish they could be, be it have their looks, their style and wardrobe, or it all – their entire life. For me, that person is Daryl Palumbo, and personally, I’d take whatever I could get, even if it was just his fridge content, I’d probably settle for just that. The man is as restless as ever: as soon as one project is done, or rather a record is released or a tour is over, he’ll start with something else, and of course he has that damn knack of making whatever he touches turn to solid gold.

Palumbo announced last year on his Twitter account that he and friend/ex-Men, Women and Children member, Rick Penzone were entering the mixing stages of their first LP with a new project, called Color Film. The duo first featured on the track ‘It's a Lie’ off of Nick Hook's Without You EP (I’m currently downloading this now as I type, so I’m not sure what to expect – I may write about it in the future!), and then on 18th October 2012, Color Film played their first and only show at Irving Plaza, New York. It’s Palumbo... Where else?

Along with the announcement of the show, the band's site went online, revealing their debut full-length details and a download of the track ‘52 Minds’ in exchange for a scratch off ticket code. ‘Bad Saint’, another track from the record, became available for streaming on Color Film's Soundcloud page shortly after, but now they’re both easily accessible through YouTube or anywhere really thank to the internet. I myself am really, really, really digging ‘Bad Saint’. It’s understandable now why Paulmbo is often spotted rocking a Tears for Fears t-shirt at live shows, because they are an incredible influence on this project, along with the likes of UB40, and The Police, there is this awesome vibe to the two songs – almost atmospheric like in Coloring Book, most notably ‘Black Nurse’, where you can picture the sounds bouncing off the balls with reverb and style.

The coming album, entitled Living Arrangements, was produced by the duo and mixed by Gareth Jones (an English music producer and engineer notable for working with Depeche Mode, Wire, and Erasure) and is expected for a 2013 release. I can’t wait.

In the mean time, the man oozes groove and propels class through a different project – this time, one by himself. Palumbo, the other day actually, released an electro/house-esque joint on his personal Soundcloud page (again, now available on YouTube, etc.) which really leaves the body in a spasm. The track ‘Don’t Leave Me’ is repetitive, 90s New York reminiscent with a new age gloss and perfectly documents the man’s genius. It’s an addictive one, that rings through your head until you go to bed.

Also, as it was recently the tenth anniversary of Glassjaw’s Worship and Tribute masterpiece, the band released a new line of merchandise through their MerchDirect store. I picked up this lightweight navy ‘coaches’ jacket, for roughly about £65-70, because it looks absolutely awesome which features personalised stitching; very cool in more ways than one – perfect for spring. It’s just a shame it sold out so quick, and when I went to buy it, the large was already out of stock; the medium fits, and only just, but I can’t really see myself parting with this jacket. Let’s just hope I don’t grow anymore or anything!

Note: Hit me up if you have the jacket in large and want to make a trade! Haha.

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Defeater’s frontman Derek Archambault is another to emerge from the shadows with a solo side-project this year, in which he is calling Alcoa. The name derives from “one day, while driving through Alcoa, Tennessee, I decided on the name and started the process of figuring out how to not write a loud punk or four-chord jangly pop song" – that simple. The singer/songwriter’s side-project can actually be dated back to 2002, whilst on tour with various bands, according to record label and supporter, Deathwish: At that time, he found himself listening to more and more artists like Gram Parsons, Elliot Smith, Johnny Cash, Rocky Votolato, and Ryan Adams, and "…wanted so badly to be able to write songs like that”.

Their press release continues: Archambault's love affair with music started at a very young age, as his parents were huge fans of music and constantly surrounded him with it [...] He cites artists such as The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and Todd Rundgren as life-long influences. He commented, "Those are the three big ones that still influence me and bring back the best and earliest memories of falling in love with music. They all have such unique styles that weigh heavily on how I approach a lot of what I do musically”.

Now, of course, we got our first real dose of Archambault's solo efforts through the release of Defeater’s debut album Travels, but then again in 2011 when his band dropped the follow up Empty Days and Sleepless Nights – which featured a separate four-track album dedicated to acoustic storytelling and effort that put a lot of emphasis on Derek's actual singing ability, which he commented, “releasing the acoustic album on Empty Days, definitely made me much more comfortable with my voice".

After countless years of keeping Alcoa on the backburner, and silently selling some of ancient Alcoa demos whilst on the road, the recording finally went forward for a debut album in early spring of last year – recorded in and around Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Archambault's hometown. Just under a year later, Bone and Marrow was released, displaying a voluptuous use of the upright bass, banjo, fiddle, pedal steel, piano and organ, amidst others to complete this smooth, folk record.

I suppose it’s not my style really, ‘cause at the end of the day, I didn’t really dig this record; I didn’t like it and it won’t surprise me if many feel the same. I’d say it’s more for the older generations – those already in hardcore bands on their way out, those old tattoo shops that need a great background noise to fill in the cracks of conversation – and this is mostly due to the influences that helped construct this record, but also that it is clear Archambault did not want to have anything on this record tied against Defeater. That is where many will probably turn their speakers off mid-way through the album after the first listen too, because not one track is like ‘I Don’t Mind’ or even ‘Brothers’... It’s not at all like the acoustic treasures at the end of Empty Days and Sleepless Nights. It is completely different; I find it hard to find much that the two have in common, as even the vocals sound different. It’s as if Archambault’s former self has had a greater influence having been locked away for so long and is finally able to reveal his past... "I've been telling myself for about ten years that I'm going to put out a record under the Alcoa moniker, and now that I've gotten a lot more comfortable with my voice, it seemed like now was as good a time as ever".

I respect this record, but I know it is not for me. Naturally, any writer can big up any musician (or confuse in this case!), so to truly judge for yourself, you’ll just have to have a listen to Bone and Marrow as soon as possible to make the call.

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I’ve been listening to Signals, the debut album by UK hopefuls Mallory Knox, and I am more than impressed. They’re close friends with the likes of Tu Amore and We Are Fiction, but I was slightly temperamental about checking out talent recommended by bands simply because they have played shows with them, but, finally succumbing to pressure and the praising words from the majority of my friend base over Twitter, wow... Wow.

The band’s catalogue is just full of anthem-like, epic, big songs, and nothing less. It’s really easy to see how they worked their way up the ladder so quick. My favourite track off the album is ‘1949’: it has this beautiful acoustic guitar carrying the flow throughout as we engage with melodic fillers, honest lyrics and as expected, a crashing chorus, with a fantastic key line, “You’re as beautiful to me as when you were young”, which echoes through the listeners ears time and time again, bound to have them smile and think of someone close. My friend Phil said once, whilst ‘Lighthouse’ was playing in the background on a music channel, that Chapman just knows how to write, and of course, the merit he has received as a result proves this. Delivering hooks in more ways than one. It’d be nice if aspiring songwriters could take a page out of his book!

Finally, also, congratulation to them too! Earlier today I saw on Facebook that they have signed to Sony Music, through Search and Destroy Records – a momentous achievement for a band that started from the bottom and, lovingly show that hard work, passion, and determination pay off, or as they said in their own words, “dreams can come true”... Theirs, and Gabrielle’s.

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Thought of the month: Evita’s ‘Vona’ is still an absolute banger.

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When ‘Guns and Horses’ came out several years back, I had this massive crush on Ellie Goulding, and I mean massive. Thankfully, as the years have gone by, and her wardrobe of weird ex-boyfriends fills up, I am more mature and human when discussing the lass and can write this segment calmly and properly. So this month, Nike has released a free download in collaboration with the uber-babe’s latest album, Halcyon, to help encourage fans to start running. To be short, Goulding is a big runner, and isn’t shy about making it public – and with the help of Nike, they have been holding runs and the like for some time. The new approach is to create a soundtrack for runners to get up and out to, and, to great success.

The result is one solid, hour long track, that’s had various DJs remix songs, resulting in something very clubby more than anything else; you’ll find yourself moving from side to side or throw your hands up in the air at times without realising. The key word I used earlier was ‘soundtrack’, as it’s a background filler to your running spirit, with a good beat to keep you going and enjoying what you’re hearing; it’s not a distraction. The track is very modest therefore, and blends incredibly well – it does perhaps drag on in several places on certain songs, much like Goulding’s Run Ito the Light remix EP released a few years back, but that is the point for those cross country, there for long distance ventures to spur you on.

The clarity in Goulding’s words take a back seat in this remix, and structures are completely torn apart before the final two ‘songs’; you can tell it’s been remixed well as approaching the end, the ‘songs’ are soft, really easy to listen to with no jumpy spots and just held you wind down and out. End race. To have a listen or download it for free, check out the following link!: click here.

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So, I picked up one of those free magazines that most ‘hip’ stores have laying around the other day whilst accompanying a work college of mine on our lunch break to some shoe shop, Office. In the bottom corner, the cover read: ‘Interview with Pure Love: rock’s new saviours’. Hmm… I thought. “Saviours” of rock. Does rock need saving? Is it in trouble? Saving by a band that sounds a little mixed up in sound – that doesn’t attract the mainstream? I felt it was such a narrow minded and ignorantly blind opinion – just a pathetic excuse for a tagline. Christ, I don’t know why it made my blood boil the way it did. Perhaps I was just jealous.

If we are to look at the stark basics, and briefly, rock is in the charts more so than what it has been in previous years – with emergence of the underground scene through the likes of Deaf Havana, While She Sleeps, Don Broco and Lord knows who else. The last sort of massive burst was through Green Day with ‘American Idiot’, as far as I can think back… It’s being saved currently, without Pure Love! This is not a dig at the band, mind you – I quite enjoyed Anthems, but I stand firm when I say it will not be defiant and single handled change music and UK listening patterns.

You’d think by issue nineteen Office would’ve sorted out the basics of a worthwhile interview. The interview itself was dreadful, and the answers were just as bad. I didn’t quite get why dropping in the lines “Jim is from the US” and more importantly “Jim played guitar for The Hope Conspiracy” were deemed necessary; no one knows, or cares (Well, I do, but y’know, how many Nike Blazer wearers sing along to Death Knows Your Name in the shower?), and it was just a terrible filler. Bleh. Argh! I best not start to pick it apart, especially here – I’ve been doing so in my mind for the last week…

I don’t mean to be ‘that’ kind of critic, and comment so negatively on others… I guess it just got to me. But to sum up, rock is doing just fine. F*** off, Office, and do your homework.

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Another thought of the month: That intro to ‘Fever Dream’ by Bury Your Dead is so damn heavy! Big fan.

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I’m back on the bandwagon… Bring Me the bloody Horizon. “Now… Bring me that horizon!”, Captain Jack Sparrow bellows as Pirates of the Caribbean concludes (it’s the final line, init), credits roll, and epic music rallies us out of the cinema seats and into the car park. The final release I’m going to discuss quickly is Sempiternal (which means everlasting to those who just talk normally). Now there was a lot of talk surrounding Jona Weinhofen and his sudden departure, and how much impact he actually had on the album despite all his hype for building it up, stating it’d be a lot more atmospheric (which it was), or the internet war Oli Sykes had with that alternative model Jessica Clark over the album’s name origin, etc., but let’s not dwell on the negative and just look at the fact: this album is great.

Normally I would discuss those points more, but I think something is wrong with me. I am going to be really short with this one. The mad reviews and fact everyone is plugging it, talking about it and listening to it should be more than enough backing to give it a go, disregarding your previous opinions or even assumptions. There was me thinking they couldn’t get any bigger... It’s only just beginning.

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