Colour Carnival impress with sophomore EP ‘Panic Sold’

words fae Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Edinburgh-based psych rock outfit Colour Carnival are one of the more eclectic acts to emerge from Leith Recording Company in recent months. Whilst their debut Count The Flies puts out a feast of different sounds for listeners to gorge on, it felt at times that certain elements didn’t quite belong on the plate. Their latest EP, on the other hand, constitutes a significant step forward for the three-piece group in their effort to distill down a myriad of influences into a slicker, more cohesive package. Panic Sold glides between various styles in a manner which is not only effective, but begins to build the foundations of their very own unique sound.

Ready For This kicks off with a blistering drum intro and some neat, intricate clean guitar work before giving way to crashing cymbals and distortion. The rhythm section of Graeme Jarvie and Michael Stuart does a great job of controlling the ebb and flow, especially as the structure is fairly freeform; in fact, none of the tracks on the EP are really your bog standard verse/chorus affair. It’s encouraging to see that Colour Carnival’s songwriting is already fairly accomplished at this early stage of their career, by and large avoiding pitfalls such as repetitive melodies or tired indie rock cliches.

Moral Rachet continues to impress as it begins with jabs of jarring, dissonant guitar and weaving basslines as Simon Anderson takes aim at the hypocrisy of the gun lobby – “hit me with your moral ratchet / candle vigils, thoughts and prayers” – before bursting into life midway with an almost palpable release of tension, providing a wonderful contrast to the anxiety of the first half. It’s a sign that they’re able to experiment and incorporate the odd tastefully deployed guitar solo without giving off the impression it’s been thrown in ‘for the hell of it’.

Penultimate track Run Its Race suddenly takes the EP in a new direction, and is testament to the band’s ability to switch it up. There’s some really nice touches throughout – the guitar hook is pretty damn catchy, plus the seemingly innocuous synths during the verse actually work to great effect. It’s undoubtedly a highlight and you’d be hard pushed to find a better starting point for the curious or the uninitiated.

The step-up from debut to sophomore EP is marked, and if Colour Carnival continue on this trajectory, they’re looking like a very hot prospect indeed. Once they smooth out some of the rough edges production-wise, such as the occasionally muddled vocals, they look more than capable of serving up a slice of brilliance on their next outing.

‘Panic Sold’ is set to be released June 29th. You can listen to it and buy a digital copy here.

Parquet Courts get “woke” on their latest LP ‘Wide Awake’

words fae Ewan Blacklaw (@EwanBlacklaw)rating 9

Wide Awake is the sixth full-length studio album from the unique voices of modern punk, Parquet Courts. This newest release shows that the band have by no means run out of ideas, and continue to improve on their already impressive track record. Ever since bursting on to the alt-rock scene in 2012 with Light Up Gold, the native Texan band have been releasing a pretty consistent stream of great records, apart from a couple of stranger moments such as 2015’s Monastic Living or their more recent collaboration with Daniele Luppi. Apart from these blips in the band’s discography, Parquet Courts have produced some of the standout indie rock albums of the past few years, hitting out with a sound that no other band is currently bringing to the scene. The combination of the guitar-based stoner garage rock and the abstract song writing from the minds of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown has seen the band gain critical acclaim over the years, with much anticipation for each of their past few releases.

Since moving to Brooklyn and being signed to Rough Trade, the sound of Parquet Courts seems to have evolved from their Texan origins. On their last record, Human Performance, there seemed to be more slow moments contemplating different subject matter, showing personal growth from within the group as well as a habit of switching up musical stylings between albums. This growth has continued, and with Wide Awake they have yet again switched up their style.

While the new sound is definitely not a massive change for fans of their older material, it brings a fresh new approach to the unique sound they’ve built on so far. The new album is often driven mainly by the drums and bass, rather than by the catchy guitar hooks like on some of their earlier work. This is not to say that the album isn’t guitar heavy, as some of the most punk-influenced tracks from Parquet Courts can be found on this record. Tracks such as Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience, Normalization and NYC Observation take clear influence from 80s punk, particularly the New York scene, which makes sense considering the new setting for the band.

Wide Awake is also the most focused and concise project from Parquet Courts to date, with fewer rambling tracks that sometimes feel as if they overstay their welcome on some of the bands older albums. The subject matter and lyrics also feel like this, with less personal, small-minded issues being discussed; instead, it features more punk-influenced social commentary. The commentary doesn’t come across as whining and complaining or preaching to the listener, but rather feels like a discussion that doesn’t treat you like an idiot. The opening two tracks speak on American issues, setting the pace for the rest of the album. Topics such as national identity and gun control are touched upon in a very Parquet Courts way, infusing witty anecdotes and pop culture references to form great tracks.

In the past, some of the songwriting felt reminiscent of bands such as Pavement, but could occasionally come off as random. On this record, though, it feels that Savage and Brown have reached a new high point with their lyrics, and have found their true identity as musicians. In particular, Andrew Savage seems to take the lead on the record with his signature style but has started to decode some of his cryptic lyrical habits in order to speak out on issues, which gives the album more of a sense of purpose.

To contrast with the punk side of the album, there is also a distinct feature of funk and soul that feature more prominently than any other Parquet Courts album. Numbers like Tenderness and title track Wide Awake bring a completely new dimension to their music, which feels like yet another advancement for the band. This new side hasn’t been seen on any of the previous albums, at least not to this extent, and it really does work incredibly well. The new ‘punk and fun’ approach has allowed Parquet Courts to create their most in-depth album yet.

The commentary offered on the current state of the USA feels like a breath of fresh air to the music world, just when it seemed that it kept getting worse. The punk spirit of the album is as prominent as Andrew Savage’s brilliant songwriting and the infatuating instrumentals from the rest of the band that are about as catchy as any other album in 2018 so far. The album really doesn’t have a dull moment, which has been an issue on some of the earlier releases from the band, showing that the band just keeps on improving. Parquet Courts continue their growth and continue to impress with the latest and greatest addition to their discography.

The Wonder Years take you on a journey with their latest LP ‘Sister Cities’

by will sexton (@willshesleeps)rating 9

Raw emotion and wearing your heart on your sleeve in music can be very much a make or break for some bands. You can miss the mark slightly or, in The Wonder Years’ case, you can execute it expertly and continue to impress with hard-hitting, gorgeous lyricism that will never get old. One of the most impressive and consistently evolving pop-punk/alternative rock bands in recent times returns with their sixth album Sister Cities, an album whose opening riffs and drums sends goosebumps down your spine straight off the bat. Strap yourself in for a whirlwind tour of the past couple years of frontman and singer Dan Campbell’s life.

The album as a whole is very much based on travel, the effects of touring and being away from friends and family for a prolonged amount of time. Campbell himself even states that this album was “a record about distance, or maybe how little the distance matters anymore. It’s a record about how big we all thought it all was, and how much closer to everyone we really are.” The writing process included Campbell keeping a journal throughout their 2015 world tour and circling the most important and stand-out moments, which eventually became the songs you hear today.

Business gets underway on an incredibly strong note with the heart-wrenching Raining in Kyoto, a song written about Campbell’s late grandfather who sadly passed away while they were on tour; a song subject that, even on paper, is heartbreaking. The lyrics are something that you can never mention enough when it comes to The Wonder Years because the band have perfected this transparent songwriting when you can really feel and can almost see the emotion on Campbell’s face while recording the vocals. What makes this song so evocative is that this subject of ‘being away on tour while someone important to you is hurting/ill’ has been approached as a fear of Campbell’s already in the song Dismantling Summer from their 2013 album The Greatest Generation, which only adds to the sorrow. It’s this transparency that really ranks this band highly in the scene they’re in. It’s relatable to some and everyone who hears Campbell singing at the VERY least feels empathy.

On the other side of evoking emotion, Flowers Where Your Face Should Be (Considered You In January [Part 2] from their 2015 album No Closer To Heaven) is about Campbell’s now-wife and about preparing for their wedding day. It was influenced by seeing some blue Hydrangeas on tour, resulting in the most impressively affecting writing he has ever done. Aided by some incredibly soft instrumentation, it builds up to be one of the most romantic pieces of work they have put out. It’s a nice emotion shift from the other heavier songs. Some of the lyrics are nostalgic and sad, creating a lovely contradiction within the song itself, finally building up into that last line sung mostly in gorgeous falsetto: “I’m gonna marry you underneath driftwood from Crescent City”, a link to the arch that Campbell built himself for his own wedding. Having light and dark sides is very important for albums of this timbre.

The instrumentation is mostly the same compared to their older albums; however, there have been some defining genre changing moments, further solidifying their sound into alt-rock. These changes include some spacey electronic bass on the intro to their (not-technically official) second single Pyramids of Salt, which adds an element of eeriness. It could do with a little perfection, though – it’s pretty much a one-off throughout the record, so it feels like it sticks out a bit. That being said, on Flower Where Your Face Should Be they’ve utilised some different guitar pedals that haven’t featured much previously, which is refreshing to hear.

Two tracks that dictate a shift in subject matter are When the Blue Finally Came and We Look Like Lightning. When the Blue Finally Came is written about a moment on tour when the band went cliff diving in Sydney, Australia. It’s such a simple subject matter but somehow becomes a breath of fresh air in the album, while the instrumental relief relaxes you. In comparison to this ode to the exciting rush and celebration of life, We Look Like Lightning is written about the fears of death while flying in planes. The Wonder Years as a band flew on up to 40 flights around the world supporting their last album cycle in one year, so Campbell writes about the increasing chance of the plane crashing and “what song you’d wanna die to”. Still very much connected to the overall theme of traveling and touring these two juxtaposing song subjects add to the overall space that this album was born in.

Very specific highlights of this album also include the chords changes and vocal performance in the chorus of The Ghosts of Right Now, a song which is interpreted as being about wanting to spend time with the people you’re no longer able to, whether it be because of them passing or just not being around. The “wanting to see how the light collects in the high desert heat” is so specific and evoking. The second highlight is the connection of the soft and spacious When the Blue Finally Came to The Orange Grove. The transition is so seamless; like the calm before the storm. While WTBFC celebrates the feeling of enjoying somewhere new and exciting, The Orange Grove is the feeling of yearning for places you know and wanting to be back in time with the people you used to be around. The third and final of these highlights is the chorus of Sister Cities, the massive title track and lead single of the album. It is the song that will be screamed back at the band in live performances and the raw power from the vocals is another home run for The Wonder Years.

Every song on this album deserves its spotlight, which is the most powerful thing about this album. The Wonder Years have been on some serious journeys over the last two years and Campbell is able to take you on those journeys with them so easily through his incredible lyricism and storytelling. The absolute pinnacle of the album comes in the form of the end track The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me. You’ve been on this adventure with the band and finally pull up to the last, incredibly emotional track which explores the idea that all of the people you have ever met and made a connection with are an ‘ocean’; an ocean that you wish you could drown yourself in when you feel cut off and far away from home. After the final slamming of drums and aggressive strumming of guitars, you feel complete empathy. An excellent piece of work. Congratulations, boys.

Sunflower Bean serve up a cheerful slice of pop rock on new LP ‘Twentytwo In Blue’

by tilly o’connor (@tilly_oconnor)rating 7

Following their somewhat disjointed 2016 debut Human Ceremony, Sunflower Bean are back with the hugely hyped Twentytwo in Blue.

Opening with 70’s chant rock tune Burn It, the New York trio set the tone for the record – old style riffs coupled with a millennial understanding of the world. Vocalist and bassist Julia Cummings shines over the music, which feels somewhat stale. Nonetheless, as first tracks go, it’s a strong one. It will most likely be going down well on their current UK tour.

The real standouts on this album are the songs that manage to marry the bands influences with stunning fresh takes on pop music. This is illustrated perfectly on Memoria, which knowingly includes the lyrics “The past is the past for a reason”. Guitars and backing vocals glow and ooze like some of Fleetwood Mac’s best work. Their influence is ever-present in Sunflower Bean’s discography but its most obvious on I Was A Fool.

The track kicks off with one of the coolest bass riffs on the record – seriously, grab your best headphones and have a listen. In the dreamy lament for a past relationship, Cummings is joined on vocals by guitarist Nick Kivlen. There’s a back and forth between the two that plays out like two sides of a story (not unlike fellow trio NDUBZ, however this could merely be a coincidence). His lines include a fleeting religious reference: “I was a fool who lost his herd”. Their previous work has included copious amounts of biblical imagery; however, TTIB departs from this, explicitly so in the lyric “I don’t need your religion” on Human For.

The band regularly succeed in providing sweet sonic escapism for those of us not living in the states, although on tracks such as Puppet Strings and Crisis Fest their efforts turn to political commentary. The latter is explicitly about the US’ current administration as well as things such as the effects of student debt. The topics are tackled head on, but this comes across cheesy at times. From the “no, no, no”s of the chorus, to “2017 we know, reality’s one big sick show”, the lyrics seem lazy. This is countered in part by Cumming’s earnest delivery, but it’s often overshadowed by predictable bluesy guitar.

The title track Twenty Two is musically mature compared to other songs on the album. Lyrically, however, some of the rhyming form sits sticky and noticeably in the ear. The repetitiveness is jarring – “We could live inside a place, where we’d never have to face, all the people who disgrace, us and make us hide our face”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this nursery rhyme style prose is reserved for the beginning of the song. The chorus climbs and cascades in terms of metaphor and literary references, making it a beautiful song about reaching adulthood.

Twentytwo in Blue is a conscious record. Its glittery music harks back to simpler, summery times, but the ideas brought forward keep your feet firmly on the ground and looking to the future. With Julia Cumming’s vocals standing tall on top of the Sunflower Bean human pyramid the band look to have found their sound. This record will likely cement them as important players in the otherwise vague pop rock genre.

Track Review: Phoenix – Ti Amo

By Karsten Walter (@karseatheadrest)

French indie-pop superstars Phoenix are releasing their new album Ti Amo next month, and have debuted its title track, alongside the previously released glitchy, upbeat J-Boy. The track gives fans a real eye-opener into the return of their renowned sound.

Ti Amo opens with a retro drum loop intro, that lays under the track throughout, eventually drowned out by the live drums, but still returning to hold the piece together. It’s a successful attempt from Phoenix to replicate the lively disco vibe that they’ve thrived off of for five albums now. If you’ve ever had a desire to hear Thomas Mars repeatedly tell you he loves you, then you’ve come to the right place with this track.  As the band declared when releasing the track on their Facebook page, “Ti Amo” is a romantic song about the tragedy of unreciprocated love and desire. Their description fits it perfectly – it’s all about having fun, enjoying the little things in life (sipping Prosecco whilst listening to the Buzzcocks, seemingly) and loving each other. In various languages.

The addictive and pulsing chorus is irresistible as much as it is repetitive. The playful lyrics, the outgoing instrumental, it all feels like the soundtrack to a party with your best friends, and you won’t be judged to tap your feet to it, or be taken in by its exotic feel. It makes complete sense as to why the band described this album as a recall to the summer and Italian discos of their past.

While the track isn’t instinctively political or aiming to tackle any moral issues, it could easily be perceived that way.  Phoenix aren’t exactly a radical band, but when they also entitled their announcement of the track’s release with the words “100% lover – 0% violence”, you have to think there might be a possibility the track is being released for a statement of some form. It may be to support and promote a form of unity, love, and multiculturalism among us with the various languages in it.

Maybe Thomas Mars is just really interested in furthering his modern language skills. Whatever the end message, the track oozes romance, positivity, and fun – and that’s probably the perfect way to describe this preview of their upcoming album. 

7/10


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Album Review: A Shortcut to Mushrooms by Treeherder

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

First impressions are important. From a job interview to a first date, nobody wants to make a total twat out of themselves and end up forever portraying themselves as an off-duty clown. But in the case of Wolverhampton alt/stone trio Treeherder, they’ve firmly shook your hand, asked how you are and got the first beers in with their debut album, A Shortcut to Mushrooms.

One of the biggest parts of this album is the power in the voice of guitarist-cum-vocalist Scott McNair. The power of someone’s vocals can make or break a band, and in Treeherder‘s case, the vocals help drive the power and aggression in their sound, perfectly synced in with drummer Jake Webb and bassist Neil Owens, creating a driving power trio.

The album is chock full of highlights, including tracks such as Lighthouse, Ents, Tightrope, God Save Us and Blue Eyes, pushing forwards raw emotion with a gritty, powerful edge. There’s even a cover of Reuben’s Cities on Fire, adding their own twist on the song without losing sight of the original.

Many love to sit on their gold thrones at the top of the ivory tower and complain that guitar music is slowly dying, but listening to this album proves that it’s still very much alive, with its heart beating stronger than ever. From back to front this is a consistently enjoyable album, without any filler material or weak points, it is a seriously good debut album.

Lyrically, the content of this album is fantastic. It can perfectly commentate on the pain of losing someone and the pitfalls that romance has to offer you. A standout line from the album is from the track, Tightrope, “I’m standing in the middle of your tightrope, and it’s held by both your hands“, which illustrates the uncertainty of putting your heart into someone else’s hands.

It’d be exceedingly unfair to go easy on a new band’s debut album to save them their blushes, but the praise of A Shortcut to Mushrooms is warranted, earnt and deserved. Managing to keep the sound fresh but familiar, this is an album you can pick up and listen to front to back, without even breaking a sweat.

More and more needs to be done to help fledgling bands find their feet, and this is one album that you should pick up, plug in, and enjoy it forwards, backwards, side-to-side, on the bus, on a cross-channel ferry, after a break up, during intercourse: just get some Treeherder in your life.

9/10

Buy A Short Cut to Mushrooms here. Do it. Now. You. Yes, you.


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Basement – Promise Everything ALBUM REVIEW

After a two year hiatus and teasing us with singles, Basement return with a third album full of melodic rock, gritty guitars and sublime vocal performances.

Foals- What Went Down review

“Their heaviest, loudest album yet.”

Apple music’s simple description of Oxford rockers Foals’ fourth album may be short but as soon as the eponymously titled intro track What Went Down kicks off with a barrage of godzilla sized synths and riffs then you know those five words perfectly capture the sound this album dwells in.

Not that being heavy and loud is new to Foals. Just check out Inhaler off of their last album Holy Fire and see how making anthems is second nature the band, arguably something they’ve always been able to (Cassius & Red Socks Pugie off their debut album antidotes) but have only started to realise as time has went on. Dedicated fans of the band have always known this but even they were surprised when follow up track Mountain At My Gates was released just a few weeks later. Full of guitar breakdowns and cathartic noise, it was strikingly more calm than What Went Down to begin with but as the song reached it’s action packed climax, fans and newcomers alike knew the band were onto a winner.

A fourth album is usually the stage where most rock bands go one of two ways: either stick to the same formula that has served them well for most of their career or just go bat shit crazy. I won’t spoil what direction Foals have went in but do bare in mind that this is the band who bought cow and sheep bones to use for percussion after being inspired by voodoo.

There’s been development in the lyrics department thanks to frontman Yannis Philippakis’ new approach to writing them. Unlike how he would normally do it by making them intentionally mysterious, he wrote the lyrics for the tracks off What Went Down in a hypnagogic state which is where they are written on the verge of sleep to get straight to what the brain is thinking. Unlike what you might expect them to be like, a bunch of incoherent ramblings and regrets about how you screwed up that day at work, we get Philippakis singing about burying guilt and the things that we once believed “being lost to the depths of a hungry sea”.

Though they might have held back going quite so unconventionally for their sound like last time, the band know themselves what they’re best at: delivering fucking amazing guitar riffs and heavy anthems. Put on Night Swimmers and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve found a Holy Fire b-side but as the song starts to unravel we get echoey vocals that are lucky enough not to be crushed by the destructive synths and guitars they’re paired up with. Then there’s Albatross that’s full of the afrobeat perfection that Foals have been affiliated with since their debut, standing out as one of the best tracks on the album and unintentionally serving as 5 minutes of pure nostalgia for fans of the band.

While we’re on the subject of the past, it’ll be clear to those who have paid attention to Foals that they’re not one to shy away from dark and chaotic subject matter. Hell, Holy Fire’s album cover had men on horseback, standing there in what looks like a sweltering heat: if that doesn’t scream of being a cryptic nod to an apocalypse then I don’t know what will. We get tales of lakes being set ablaze and bloody fistfights, along with one of my favourite lines off the whole album about how “love has put a gun in your hand” which may not be the most original lyric ever but in the context of how darker the album is sound wise compared to past efforts, it fits well.

That’s not to say that it’s all gloom and doom though. Birch Tree is a perfect example of how Foals haven’t forgotten the beautiful calm sound they experimented with on Total Life Forever. Starting off with a peaceful intro, the track is serenity embodied. “Come meet me by the river, see how time it flows” chimes the chorus, perfectly matching the nature of the song and follow up track Give It All keeps it consistent, featuring some beautiful lyrics of its own.

2015 has been one of the finest years of music I can remember. 2014 wasn’t awful but underwhelming in comparison to what this year has been like and What Went Down is a clear example of this. It’s hard to recall an album this year that has managed to balance balls to the wall heavy rock and cordials little tracks all on the one LP. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be on a whole lot of Top 10 lists by the end of the year and who can really blame me for thinking that when Foals have proven yet again that they can’t make a bad album. Let’s hope I’ve not jinxed it.

So what are your thoughts on What Went Down? Loved it? Hated it? What was your favourite moment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me them @blinkclyro since I’d love to see what you thought of it.

Fresh future ahead for Foals?

12 seconds.

That’s all it took for for Foals teaser trailer, simply titled 2015, to set Twitter’s music community on fire. Although fans knew there was an album in the making, this was the first glimpse of album number 4 and I’m not kidding when I say glimpse. Out of the 12 seconds, the majority is complete silence bar 3 seconds of sound. This of course isn’t enough to completely judge the style the Oxford band are going for but it is enough to give us some sort of idea about what we should expect until we get a proper single or, as some fans are praying for, a surprise album release.

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In an interview with the love them or hate them magazine NME, frontman and beard goals for many guys Yannis Philippakis was very forward with his excitement about the new material. The band have never been one to shy away from loud anthematic tunes, see songs like Inhaler to back this up, and their upcoming album will not be any different. “This new stuff’s going to decimate venues; we’re itching to play it,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to get back on stage and obliterate places.” Going back to the teaser trailer, the band are playing in a rundown warehouse whilst an apocalyptic-esque synth plays in the background. Call this over analysing or just fan speculation but this, on top of the milliseconds of screaming we get from Yannis, could be a sign of their return to the synth heavy sounds of their early work, specifically debut album Antidotes, as well as revamping the sound on latest album Holy Fire with tinges of punk and grunge.
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Not only is the sound set to change but so too are the lyrics. “On [2013’s ‘Holy Fire’] I tried to consciously push the lyrics somewhere personal that was more like real life, whereas on this one I just wanted to strip the layers of myself away, have the reptilian part of my brain speak directly and not analyse or censor it,” he said. This censorship being removed will most likely result in some psychotic sounding lyrics, nothing that’s too unusual for the band but it’s usually kept to a minimum, making way for slower and atmospheric tunes like Spanish Sahara and Milk & Black Spiders.

Regardless of what direction the band are going, it’s clear that whatever is happening in the background is going to be exciting and might just result in one of the best albums of the year.

If you’re part of a band or are an individual artist then don’t hesitate to contact me below so I can check out your music etc. ☺
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