VANT-Karma Seeker

Obviously distraught by the result of the EU referendum, lets hope VANT can take some consolation from the positive reception their debut EP release teaser- ‘Karma Seeker’ has had. Following on from last release ‘Fly By Alien’ (which I was lucky enough to bag on fluorescent green vinyl on Record Store Day), ‘Karma Seeker’ shows another side to the band which has gone so far un-seen on the band’s previous releases and hints at an exciting future.

Beginning with a slow paced acoustic chord pattern, it is immediately evident that this track breaks free of the VANT mould. Although I usually try to avoid such un-imaginative comparisons, it is difficult to avoid mentioning the Kurt Cobain-esque vocals from Mattie Vant. This grunge feeling is an ever-present theme which runs throughout the song; a progression from the band’s more usual punk alignments. Grunge itself was best categorised as combining the raw edge of punk with the slower tempos and more complex instrumentation of heavy metal, and so this development could be seen as the natural next step for VANT. Punchy choruses feature a kind of call and response effect between vocals and all other instruments, and work an interesting contrast between verse and chorus into the song. Just after half-way through, the music is stripped back, before gradually building back up into a prolonged chorus to round the song off into a fitting conclusion.

‘Karma Seeker’ is extremely promising for VANT; in my opinion more promising than anything else so far. My only criticism of the band up until now has been that I believed if they were to release an album then we would see too little variation from track to track. Now my fears have completely vanished. ‘Karma Seeker’ has proved that VANT have more in their locker, and can provide a more diverse musical display. If the rest of the EP can live up to the high standard that has now been set, then VANT deserve to reach even greater heights.

See the new video for ‘Karma Seeker’ here.

KARMA SEEKER EP TRACKLISTING:

1. KARMA SEEKER

2.WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BERNERS LEE

3. JESUS WAS A CONMAN

4. BIRTH CERTIFICATE

Otherkin-The New Vice EP

If Otherkin can stop jumping around after the Republic of Ireland’s recent last-gasp progression from the Euro’s group stages long enough to take stock of their current situation, I’m sure they would be extremely pleased. Fresh from releasing the hugely successful EP ‘The New Vice’, and on the brink of a jam-packed festival season which is very likely to spread their name even further, things are looking good for this Dublin-based band. Another member of the Flying Vinyl new breed taking the world by storm, Otherkin have managed to nail a sound somewhere in-between punk and The Strokes. ‘The New Vice’ is a fresh batch of three minute hell-raisers for avid listeners to get their teeth sunk into, lets take a look…

We are immediately hit with previously heard single ‘I Was Born’; a song which, despite leading to comparisons being drawn to the styles of Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr, is said (by Luke Reilly; vocalist and guitarist) to have been inspired, at least in part, by the work of REM. Although ‘I Was Born’ has transformed through several incarnations since the original demo, this final product is sure to be the greatest of the track’s versions. Vital first line ‘I was born and I will die’ is possibly the bands most effective lyric; an extremely poignant statement; giving a simple look on life as a whole. ‘I Was Born’ is great both through earphones and (I would expect) live, and is a statement of intent for Otherkin, as it shows exactly what they’re about.

If you thought you couldn’t get any more ‘Otherkin’ than ‘I Was Born’, ‘Yeah I Know’ is there to prove you wrong. Short, to the point and driven by punchy drums and simplistic guitar riffs, ‘Yeah I Know’ even has the ‘oh-ay-oh’s that we have so far come to expect. That is not to say that this familiarity is in any way negative. Otherkin are a band who know their area of expertise and continue to produce music from within this field, ensuring success from the very beginning. So far we have seen ‘The New Vice’ cement the features of Otherkin’s music which have made them such a hit, it will be interesting to see if the latter half of the EP furthers this effect to an even greater extent.

‘Howling’, the penultimate track, tends to align itself more with the fun-loving, garage rock side of the band’s repertoire. The ‘ay-oh’s are back again in force, and full-throttle drum rhythms are once again the order of the day. Less gritty than ‘Yeah I Know’, and with more forward thrust than ‘I Was Born’, ‘Howling’ could attract Circa Waves listeners who seek a power and substance seen in the Summer favourite’s live performance, but which can be lacking through over production when listening at home. For all of you out there, Otherkin are here and ready to provide.

Finally, ‘White Heat’ closes off the EP in style. For such a short song, a cut out which reduces the song to its’ bare bones before bringing other elements back in is executed well.’White Heat’ is more content to sit back on itself, floating along at a natural pace-not dragging, but equally not rushing. An advert for the benefits of walking bass and few chords-‘White Heat’ is the final colour added to ‘The New Vice’ canvas; nothing outlandish, nothing wildly different, just good music.

This Summer could very well be a turning point in Otherkin’s career. Festivals have that kind of power-just look at the unprecedented rocket which was Royal Blood’s career a couple of years back. What next? A new and exciting single?? A follow-up EP??? Or even an album?!?!?!? We’ll have to wait and see, but surely this wait won’t be long, as creative minds such as are possessed by these talented young lads are very hard to suppress.

Jake Bugg-On My One

Jake Bugg has been away for a long time. Despite a quick turnover between his self-titled debut and it’s follow-up, which were released in successive years, it has obviously not been so easy to produce the notorious tricky third. Now it is 2016, three years on from ‘Shangri La’, and Jake Bugg has finally resurfaced. No, he is not dead, but after a long time away, ‘On My One’ needs to deliver.

Highlights become apparent early on, as ‘On My One’ and ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’ are firmly planted into Jake Bugg’s area of expertise, and would easily be at home nestled amongst the tracks of his emotional debut. Furthermore, they prove that he is completely capable of writing such material alone, as in the past the co-writer curse of the record label has always been hanging over him. Whilst these are the high-points of the album, there are also the inevitable lows. ‘Ain’t No Rhyme’ features Jake Bugg trying his hand at rapping (yes, I was surprised too), and, although it can be said that it perhaps didn’t work out as bad as one would expect, it is not quite what we want or need from him. ‘Never Wanna Dance’ is another experimental anomaly, ending up as a sort of wistful rom-com montage soundtrack (you know the bit where the protagonist reflects on what he’s lost before inevitably winning the girl back). Despite this, the majority of the album is more to my taste; displaying the country-tinged guitar melodies most commonly seen with Bugg’s first songs; the songs which gained him success in the first place. ‘On My One’ shows us just what Bugg can do when left to his own devices, and proves that yes, he does have more song-writing credibility than the X-factor acts he is so quick to pour disdain upon.

While his first album gave us tear-wrenching ballads in the vein of ‘Broken’, and his second, despite being a relative disappointment in some respects, added fast-paced, energy-filled tracks such as ‘Slumville Sunrise’ to the equation, ‘On My One’ seems to fail to unlock a new area in Jake Bugg’s repertoire. It does attempt to do so however, but it’s probably best to not dwell on the attempts at rapping; a pitfall for many a rock musician over the years. That is not to say that this album is all bad, title track ‘On My One’is Bugg at his strongest and is certainly not of a lower standard than what we have previously heard. The album has to be admired as an effective shrug-off of label control, with its co-writers and other restrictions, however, it has to be said that Jake Bugg has fallen into the typical demise for solo artists; criticised for not changing his sound, but criticised also when he attempts to do so.

Spring King-Tell Me If You Like To

About a month ago, when we discovered that we were to be treated with an album from one of the most promising acts around, I was immensely excited. Poster boys for how a nice group of lads, combined with a DIY work ethic and a natural skill for creating good music; Spring King are a band whom everyone want to succeed. Championed by the likes of Zane Lowe (his airplay of ‘City’ on Beats 1 radio is widely accredited with attracting well-deserved label interest) Tarek, Andy, Pete and James have managed to achieve that holy grail of gaining both critics’ and people’s support. ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ has the potential of being one of the greatest albums of 2016,let alone debut albums, and could launch Spring King up into the spotlight of the music scene.

Now, usually when someone reviews an album it is customary for them to select a few highlights in order to create a summary of the album as a whole. Never before has this been so difficult for me, as the quality is immediate and maintained throughout. Beginning with ‘City’, the album starts as it means to go on. The fast paced single previously heard on EP ‘They’re Coming After You’, ‘City’ is Spring King at their raucous best, and is often a highlight of their famous live show.

A brilliant mix of simplistic, repeating chord patterns and flowing melodies, ‘Detroit’; the band’s most recently released single and personal highlight of mine, is a perfect example of how the band’s sound has matured. Moving on past the fleeting saxophone of ‘Who Are You?’-an old favourite, and ‘It’s So Dark’, a subdued and echoing new track, we arrive at ‘Take Me Away’; another exclusive for the album which showcases how Spring King’s sound has developed from those early bathroom recordings.

More live hits follow,with previous releases ‘Demons’ and ‘Rectifier’ this time providing the driving rhythms and roaring melodies. Title track ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is possibly the strongest of the band’s previously unheard songs, and is what most people associate with the band. Bass and chord heavy with ever-energetic drums, ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ leaves it to lead and backing vocals to provide the harmonies which transform it into a superb listen.

Penultimate track ‘The Summer’ is a welcome addition to the bands repertoire,and will surely help them conquer this festival season with its sing-along choruses and laid-back approach. The album closes with ‘Heaven’; a slow-paced rumbling track carried along by the rock steady timekeeping of strummed guitar chords and the ever present snare drum, over which Tarek Musa’s vocal melodies are left to drift.

One of the few bands whose YouTube comment section isn’t flooded with fifty-somethings saying modern music is nowhere near as good as it was in their day, Spring King are having a massive impact on UK music. Despite being alongside the highlights of the band’s music so far, the new tracks are not overshadowed on this album, and if it can help them maintain the meteoric rise they have experienced in recent years, they will be sure to climb up festival posters in years to come, spearheading a new wave of indie bands.

Local Band of the Month-The Sunshine Underground

This instalment of local band of the month is a sad one. The Sunshine Underground; one of Leeds’ greatest ever bands and one of the country’s most underrated acts, have announced that they are to split. For a band with such musical quality, The Sunshine Underground don’t receive anywhere near the recognition they deserve, and should be heard by a wider audience. Here then I will look back on the band’s ten year long career and seek to introduce as many people as possible to music they should have heard long ago.

Although the members of The Sunshine Underground had known each other from a very young age, it was in college, where they studied music, that the band was formed. Moving to Leeds together so as not to break the band up, they slowly started to improve musically and began to send demos to numerous record labels. This hard work paid off, and in 2005 the band signed to the City Rockers label. A debut single soon followed; ‘Put You In Your Place’; a single which would go on to reach number 39 in the UK singles chart the next year.

The band were ready for an album, and in August 2006, ten years ago, they delivered. ‘Raise The Alarm’ propelled the band upwards into a series of UK and European tours, as well as several festival appearances. The label of ‘nu-rave’ ,which was slapped onto them alongside several other bands, Klaxons for example, was a mixed blessing; although it helped them to achieve success in the short term, such trendy genres are always doomed to be forgotten, and its’ demise is somewhat to blame for a dip in interest all the artists involved experienced. However, The Sunshine Underground managed to stay afloat as they didn’t, and never really had tried to adhere to the genre.

It was not until early 2010 that the band’s follow up ‘Nobody’s Coming To Save You’ was released, however, this time gap was not bereft of new music-an EP release in 2009 kept die-hard fans going. Gigs across the world ensued, seeing the band travel to Mexico, China and Austria. However, these live years were tainted by the departure of bass player Daley Smith. Despite this, the band were not finished, and Craig, Stuart and Matthew continued onward.

After another long break, a self-titled album signified the bands return, receiving decent reviews but once again not enough hype. This is a problem which has plagued the band since the beginning; the mainstream media have not given them enough support. Support from these outlets or not, The Sunshine Underground continue to take their dance fuelled anthems around the country, and fail not to excite their avid fan base.

There it is then, The Sunshine Underground’s complete history to date. Ten years of success which bring their career to a close. But not without one final album. And not without one final tour.

It would be amazing for everyone to get down to the farewell gigs, so go give the lads some support at these dates:

WED 5TH OCT – ABERDEEN, THE LEMON TREET

THURS 6TH OCT – GLASGOW, KING TUTS WAH WAH HUT

FRI 7TH OCT – NEWCASTLE, THINK TANK

SAT 8TH OCT – SHEFFIELD, QUEENS SOCIAL

WED 12TH OCT – MANCHESTER, GORILLA

THURS 13TH OCT – STOKE , SUGARMILL

FRI 14TH OCT – NOTTINGHAM, RESCUE ROOMS

SAT 15TH OCT – LEEDS, STYLUS

WED 19TH OCT – BRISTOL, THEKLA

THURS 20TH OCT – BIRMINGHAM, O2 INSTITUTE

FRI 21ST OCT – CARDIFF, CLWB IFOR BACH

SAT 22ND OCT – LONDON, SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE

WED 26TH OCT – OXFORD, THE BULINGDON

THURS 27TH OCT – BRIGHTON, THE HAUNT

FRI 28TH OCT – PORTSMOUTH, WEDGEWOOD ROOMS

SAT 29TH OCT – HULL, THE WELLY CLUB

Flying Vinyl-May

With news this month that vinyl sales generated more income for UK artists than YouTube last year, it has become even more evident that the vinyl revival is having a serious impact. Spearheading this revolution is Flying Vinyl, now releasing their twelfth issue. Flying Vinyl’s concept is to champion music on its’ greatest format, and also to introduce you to some of the greatest upcoming and largely unheard of bands around. Last month, I reviewed their April box, a box which many hailed as their best issue yet, so this next instalment, which popped through my letterbox yesterday, has a lot to live up to.

Flying Vinyl returnees Beach Baby, who we previously heard in the August box, are up first, with ‘Limousine’ and ‘Sleeperhead’. ‘Limousine’ jumps into life with a bass intro which hints of a more dark, post-punk offering than we actually receive. Summery guitars and vocals transform this track into an anthem rather than a riot, leaving us with music which breaks in gentle waves onto your eardrums. Twanging guitars overlay persistent drums on B-side ‘Sleeperhead’, although it is the pleasant and harmonic vocals which stay with you, long after the song has ended. Beach Baby could not have possibly come up with a better name considering the music produce. Reminiscent of the warm summers we experience in the UK about once every five years, Beach Baby are one of those bands that you just need to listen to as soon as you feel the sun on your face.

Featuring two singles from their debut EP; ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Lolita’, Dream Wife are next. The band dismantle modern pop, and re-assemble it in a more interesting way, as they did from the beginning when they formed Dream Wife as a fake and parodic girl band for an art exhibition. Alongside biting riffs and simplistic chord patterns, the hand claps and dreamy backing vocals on ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ seem to mock and draw from the connotations of the classic girl band, and lead singer Rakel’s feisty melodies are anything but weak. ‘Lolita’ pairs disco drum rhythms with harsh, and sometimes almost whispered, vocals in what would be more of a dance track if it wasn’t for its’ sense of subdued power. In a way very similar to the 1953 rom-com after which they are named, Dream Wife end up providing something very different to what you expect.

Another testament to the current strength of the Reading music scene, Palm Honey bring a less dark sound to new psychedelic music. Dreamy vocals, backed up by similar melodies on piercing lead guitar and echoing cymbals, are the order of the day on A-side ‘You Stole My Blackout’. Flip the record over and ‘Bones’ drifts through the inner-psych of the band; swirling guitars are ever present, as well as hazy drumming; drumming which is at odds with the other sounds you hear, providing the push needed to get the track rolling forward in a straight line, and not let it wander off at too steep a tangent. Palm Honey will always be characterised by their innovative live experience, however, in vinyl I think they have found a format truly befitting of the sound they deserve.

Rival Sons bring us two incredibly diverse tracks, displaying their vast musical range, pressed exclusively onto frankly beautiful, translucent orange vinyl. A-side ‘Thundering Voices’ is the more well known side of the band; driving rock and roll laced with riffs and the ratatat of snare dominant drum fills. Although it is hinted at at times on the first track, it is not until ‘ All That I Want’; the largely acoustic B-side, that we learn of the sheer emotion frontman Jay Buchanan is able to convey through his sustained vocals. While it is tracks like ‘Thundering Voices’ which have gained the band such high profile performances like their current support of Black Sabbath on tour, it is the band’s ability to also produce masterpieces such as ‘All That I Want’ which marks them as a breed apart.

Last up, Klangstof, a minimalist Dutch act, bring us their very first single, ‘Hostage’, along with B-side ‘We Are Your Receiver’. For a band with very little music available to listen to, Klangstof have been able to work up a remarkable amount of hype, and this shows off the quality of the music they produce. ‘Hostage’ is composed of everything needed, and nothing more. Simple beats and gentle melodies are all that are present, and yet an incredible song is still the product. ‘We Are Your Receiver’ is no different, except this time perhaps a more constant sound is produced, with the band’s synth options being utilised to a greater extent. With reports of new music on the way, it is unlikely that Klangstof have reached their peak yet,and I can say without doubt that you haven’t heard the last from this lot.

Has the May box taken the crown of best issue yet? For me, no. But for you, it is very possible. It is certainly not lacking any musical diversity, and no one could possibly say that there is not enough previously unheard musical talent on show, it’s just that the music in the April box connected more with me personally. Is it really an insult to come second place to the acts of last month anyway? What this box has proved is that Flying Vinyl continue to go from strength to strength, and never fail to bring amazing music to the masses, and for that I thank them. Roll on next month I say.

If you are not already a member, but wish to remedy this, head over to Flying Vinyl’s Website to learn more and get started.

Catfish and the Bottlemen-The Ride

From the get-go, Catfish and the Bottlemen have always been a people’s, rather than a critics’ favourite. NME themselves still seem as yet undecided whether the band are this generations Arctic Monkeys, or a mediocre and unexciting copy of thousands of bands before them. Whatever the mainstream media think of their credibility, it is undoubted that ‘The Balcony’; their hugely successful debut, struck a chord with the youth of the world, as it managed to sell 250,000 copies worldwide, despite poor ratings (I don’t think the band care bout the 4/10 ‘dated and ham-fisted’ review NME gave them now, do you?). ‘The Ride’ is possibly the most anticipated follow-up in recent history, as Catfish and the Bottlemen have become one of the most popular indie acts around on the back of just a single album. Will it be the album that conquers the critics and cements popularity among the people? Let’s find out.

First impressions don’t look too good for the band. ‘The Ride’ is another black and white covered album, one word titles are back and not only that, one track is named a number and another is a girls name(‘7’ and ‘Emily’; reminiscent of ’26’ and ‘Kathleen’). These similarities to ‘The Balcony’, are simply too strong to overlook, and have already led to many amusing parodies to be created. It would seem that Catfish and the Bottlemen have no wishes to change their image, and instead seek a development of it, but we’ll have to look deeper to determine whether this gamble has paid off.

Over the past months, many singles from the album have been released, with mixed reception. For many, they proved to increase the hype for the upcoming album, whereas for others, who were probably the band’s doubters anyway, they showed too little a change from previous works. Personally, I was sat on the fence, unsure whether I liked the new music or not, and unsure whether the band could possibly maintain their meteoric rise. But now with the album’s full release, it has become clear that these tracks are possibly the highlights of the work as a whole. ‘Twice’ is a favourite for me, although I suspect, as was the case with the last album, that the band’s new music will be better live, especially offerings such as ‘7’ and ‘Red’. Within the music itself, some old features are present too; the abrupt ending to ‘Outside’ for instance (remember ‘Tyrants’?), but I feel they have not quite been executed with the same precision and flair as we saw before. If released as the band’s debut, I suspect that ‘The Ride’ would have been just as successful as ‘The Balcony’ proved to be. While this proves the band can consistently produce good music, this could also be the problem. ‘The Ride’ is as good as ‘The Balcony’ but, in my opinion, little new is brought to the table.

‘The Ride’ is the obvious continuation of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s sound and image, and will undoubtedly not lose any of the undying support they have previously garnered from their fiercely loyal fan base. However, it is slightly disappointing for me; I feel that we don’t get quite enough from the album to warrant the same kind of triumph seen with ‘The Balcony’, although I do expect to see sales figures exceeding the previous album’s success in this area. Catfish and the Bottlemen are an amazing band, and do not fail to excite and captivate their audience in a way many others fail to do, however, I feel they need to attack different directions in a less conservative, and more experimental manner in order to become definitively brilliant.