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.

Yak-Alas Salvation

Rock bands of late have been unexciting to me, and many others, and so it has been necessary to edge towards the experimental fringes of the genre in order to discover anything interesting enough to occupy your earphones for more than a week. However, Yak manage to tap into what has established rock as one of the most powerful genres around, but also manage to let certain aspects go, giving the sense that, unlike others, they perhaps don’t just wish they were born in the 70s or 80s. Yak look to cement what success they have gained so far with the great milestone of debut album-‘Alas Salvation’ released on Friday 13th May (hopefully no bad luck there).

With ferocious live bands, it is often the case that much of the magic is left un-harnessed on record through over-production, but in this case producer Steve Mackey (of Pulp bassist fame and now an accomplished producer) has managed to capture the intensity and threat with just enough refinery to create a listen-able studio version. ‘Alas Salvation’ seems to delve deep into the hazy depths of the bands unconscious, and, piercing its way through the ever present fuzz, riff-heavy bass and guitar rhythms reign supreme. Oliver Burslem’s vocals range from an echoing, cool swagger as heard on ‘Smile’ to full-blown, frantic punk snarling on lead track ‘Victorious(National Anthem)’. ‘Alas Salvation’ is an album to be listened to as a single entity-each track seeps into the next seamlessly through the continuing sludgy background noise; a canvas of sound on which the album is based.

Bass heavy and dripping with fuzz, ‘Alas Salvation’ is perfect homage to the live show which has been one of the main foundations for Yak’s success. At this point it would be easy to shoehorn in a classic cliché about how Yak are keeping rock alive, but instead I wish to forget what has come before and look to the future, where Yak are proving that you can ignore everyone else and forge your own path; just doing what you want to do. Leading a new wave of bands operating by this ethos, buoyed by the success of what is surely one of the greatest debuts of 2016 so far, Yak are sure to make it big, and make it big fast.