Button and the Bandit-Five and Dime

Button and the Bandit are a self-proclaimed bothersome band from Birmingham, Alabama (already this post has enough alliteration to excite any self-respecting English teacher or children’s poet!). Although their initial talents lay in the art that is the film industry, in which they are both heavily qualified and experienced I might add, Michaela Walton (Button) and Clint Buckner (The Bandit) have clearly proved that their skill sets are anything but narrow. Meeting through their work; work which is exciting enough to satisfy most people’s dreams, the pair have been writing and recording melodic country for the masses ever since. ‘Five and Dime’ is one of their most recently released songs, and hopefully will deliver exactly the same service as previous tracks ‘Bandits Are on Their Way’ and ‘Scattered Amongst the Stars’.

Whilst we have heard a ukelele led style before (Clint is a talented multi-instrumentalist, excelling in guitar, ukelele, piano, bass and banjo), this work features guitar and hand-clap prominence, overlaid with Michaela’s angelic vocal melodies. Whilst most country music fails to include me as one of its fans, Button and the Bandit’s music breaches common ideas of genre; containing just enough of the common country connotations without overwhelming you. The slight American twang present in the vocal line is recognisable enough to add the feeling of the deep south without being too strong, which would detract from the piece’s musicality. With this music a happy medium is achieved; that fine line between the harmony and delicate feeling of regular acoustic artists, and the strong emotion of country, making it appeal to a wider variety of people.

The more cute (as a a button) and cuddly version of Bonnie and Clyde, Button and the Bandit travel the USA as fictional outlaws, delivering their soft and more endearing take on country music wherever they go. Practising wherever possible; from idyllic settings such as by rivers, in national parks and on mountains, to…well, less idyllic surroundings such as a military barracks, this band would be perfect as the basis for a film. On the run, but aided and loved by everyone, the pair would fight evil anywhere they came across it, but would never use violent means; similar to those children’s action programs you used to watch. In aesthetic, music and attitude Button and the Bandit have got it nailed; all they require now is the success they deserve. It is very rare that I have come across such lovely people, and I wholeheartedly hope that they can achieve even the wildest of their ambitions.

Listen to ‘Five and Dime’ along with all the rest of Button and the Bandit’s tracks on their soundcloud page.

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.

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.

ZIBRA-Girls Like You

Sam Battle, Russ Harley and Ben Everest are fast on the road to becoming Britain’s next big outfit in their genre. What genre that is I don’t really know-although they have described it as ‘glitch indie’. I’m not entirely sure what that is but since they have attributed much of their interesting synth creations to random glitches in their equipment, this is perhaps fitting. There is no need to box bands of this type into a specific genre, they can be enjoyed and appreciated by all. A unique mix of nostalgia and modern twists, Zibra’s sound has managed to harness elements from both the new and the old, while retaining an independent, innovative sound. Succeeding a string of EPs and the hugely popular single, ‘Wasted Days’, ‘Girls Like You’ and B-side ‘Goodbye Mondays’ mark the latest additions to this up and coming band’s catalogue.

Now, in ordinary circumstances, I am not a big fan of synth heavy music, but ‘Girls Like You’ is a definite exception to the rule. Accompanied by a quirky, highly stylised music video, ‘Girls Like You’ is a funky, upbeat track; everything I wish for when I listen to Zibra. The drum beats pop, swinging throughout to create an odd effect somewhere in between pushing the music forward and keeping it in check. Whilst the guitar is undoubtedly an important ingredient in the mixture, it is certainly the synths which make this song truly brilliant. I find it wonderful when electronic sounds can be used to compliment classic guitar music, and the lads have definitely achieved this here.

B-side ‘Goodbye Mondays’ introduces you to the vocal capabilities of Sam Battle more, and is characterised with the thundering choruses; choruses which achieve a power almost unfathomable when you look at each of its parts in separation from each other. Choral singing supports Sam well, especially in the harmonies executed to perfection near to the climax of the song. ‘Goodbye Mondays’ is a song of emotional lows and soaring highs, and I may go as far to say that it qualifies this release as a double A-both tracks achieve brilliance in different ways.

Zibra are, for me, the way forward for the indie genre. As the ideas start to run out for straight forward guitar music, I can envisage a switch to an incorporation of new sounds that can only be achieved through the acceptance of our electronic options, as Zibra seem to have done already. The quest to achieve something new becomes ever more difficult as time goes on, but Zibra are in an extremely strong position, much stronger than many other bands on the circuit at the moment, to continue to produce music to interest and excite, and I am excited to hear their next work, whatever direction it may take.

You can listen to ‘Girls Like You’ and witness the accompanying video here.