Drenge embrace the weird and uneasy on Strange Creatures

Drenge have made their grand return to the UK rock scene with their latest album Strange Creatures. This latest effort arrives after a relatively quiet few years for the band, whose last full studio album was released back in 2015. After the success of their self-titled debut and its follow-up Undertow, this period of absence has left a very particular itch unscratched for many fans. Known for their dark and blues-inspired grunge sound, the Loveless brothers usually kept their songs concise and direct, delivering memorable riffs and fast-paced action throughout their previous two albums. The usual distorted and heart-racing sound of their prior efforts have been largely left in the past by Drenge, who on this latest album deliver some of their most haunting and intricate work to date.

Some of the longer form and lyric-driven tracks from Undertow are the standout remains of the Drenge that fans had come to love, as their new sound often combines pulsating synthesisers and hyper-realistic lyrics to create an eerie soundscape that is often used by Eoin Loveless to explore deeper lyrical themes than on previous releases. This is not to say that the album has a slow pace overall, as some of the most pop-sounding songs of theirs to date can also be found on Strange Creatures. The two main cases of this are “This Dance” and “Autonomy,” which were both released amongst the flurry of singles that culminated in the build-up to the band’s comeback. The tracks take on more of a New Wave sound, yet still feature a certain edge from Eoin’s songwriting, particularly on “Autonomy,” where he delivers some of his most skeptical and witty commentary on the album. This new approach to writing catchy songs relies on a certain contrast between the upbeat instrumentals and the creeping vocals and backing synths, which make for an excellent addition to the band’s arsenal.

It has to be said that after the album’s introduction from three of the singles, Strange Creatures really does come into its own. “Teenage Love” provides an infectiously stirring track, with flat-out creepy lyrics that fit with the overarching theme of the record. This continues through to “Prom Night,” which is most definitely one of the standout tracks, featuring some of the most visceral and evocative storytelling that Eoin has produced over the course of all three albums. The merging of the classic Drenge guitar sound and some particularly spooky synths has been immaculately pulled off by the Loveless brothers. The shift away from guitar driven songs does not ever feel forced or alien, but more that it was the natural projection for the band’s evolving sound. This can be heard yet again on “No Flesh Road,” which feels alienating and estranged, which are themes that have always been found in Drenge’s own twisted musical stylings.

Without a doubt, the anthem of the album in “Never See The Signs,” which offers all of the aforementioned qualities in one blow. The track has all the catchiness of some of the new-wave elements of the record whilst simultaneously incorporating the dark undertones that give the album an overall eerie feel. The two closing tracks then seem to follow the apparent theme from Drenge’s previous two albums, giving the album a grandiose, almost ballad-like close. “Avalanches” offers a slow and distortion-induced shoegaze trip featuring some reverberated vocals from Eoin that combine with some isolated keys that add to the reflective tone of the track.

This is a nice change of pace that slows down nicely as the album comes to a close on the final song “When I Look Into Your Eyes.” The track definitely stands out as the most ‘out there’ and different from the Drenge of past years. The symphony of chanting vocals, acoustic guitar and prog-type synths is truly different to anything that Drenge fans will be used to, but the experimental sound seems to work for the brothers, with a solid vocal performance yet again, leaving the closing track sounding reminiscent of a Nick Cave song. This could also be said for the new role that Eoin appears to be taking in the band as he takes up the full-time job of a frontman by ditching his guitar during live shows. Although the two may not be correlated, it feels as though this change, or perhaps the maturing of the brothers, has led to a revitalised approach to songwriting, one that sees some of the band’s best written songs to date on the record, along with some of the most captivating vocal performances.

With Strange Creatures, Drenge have created an uncomfortably different yet enthralling soundscape that strays far from their simple two-piece roots. It seems that the band have abandoned the simple guitar and drums grunge combo and have opted for a more complex and moody sound that tends to deliver some haunting moments. It is great to see the Loveless brothers back in action after a four-year absence, and even better to see that they have remained consistent in their delivery of solid records. The disturbing world of Strange Creatures is almost incomparable to their previous studio albums, yet it contains songs of an equally great nature. – Ewan Blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

rating 8

The Twilight Sad keep it brilliant with IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

Five years is a long time at the best of times. However, in this day and age, five years is like ten years. Back in 2014, we lived in a world where Brexit wasn’t even a thing, David Cameron fucking the pig wasn’t even a thing, and we just lived in the bosom of the shiny-faced moon man that had a hard-on for killing the poor and disabled… and a hard-on for pigs, clearly. So much can change, and as we’ve seen, very little for the better. So, what has five years changed for Scottish post-punk heroes The Twilight Sad? 2014 saw the released of Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, accurately surmising the mood of British and EU citizens respectively.

Back with IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, five years hasn’t changed much for the band, but with that, they provide a consistent sound with sonic developments. Slightly more upbeat than NWTBHANWTL, IWBLTATT opens with the rolling synth of [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs], with James Graham’s reverberated vocals dancing over the top. The album, which is easier to type than IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, is poppier than its predecessor. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a cynical assault on a faceless, mainstream sound, this album still has the melancholic feel of its predecessors and The Twilight Sad’s influencers.

Songs like album closer Videograms feels like it’s come straight from the eighties, but with a modern tilt. Think legwarmers with Yeezys, Walkmans with Airpods. The band are influenced heavily by post-punk bands like The Cure, and whilst songs like these remind you of eighties post-punk and shoegaze heroes, they stand shoulder to shoulder with them, rather than in their shadow. The Twilight Sad have simply taken a tried and tested blueprint and put their own sonic twist on it.

IWBLTATT doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises coming straight from NWTBHANWTL, though seeing as NWTBHANWTL was greeted by rave reviews, the smart move would be to follow the same path and offer slight variations. Think of NWTBHANWTL as a vodka lemonade; crisp, refreshing, always enjoyable. IWBLTATT is a vodka lemonade… with lime. It’s what you know, with a refreshing twist, but doesn’t completely change the formula. Please though, do not try to drink this album.

Though do drink in the sonic layers offered by this album. Underneath the vocals are a rock band, underneath that are crystalised synths. Good production can take a bad album and make it a good one, with this, good production has made a good album a great one. Moving from album to album is a gamble for any band, and The Twilight Sad have clearly made a killing by not looking to rock the boat too much. So many bands these days will put all their eggs into a basket of a brand new sound and turn fans off whilst failing to convert new fans.

This album does offer an alternative challenge though; picking your highlights. Rarely is an album so well done that you struggle to find your key points, rather appreciating it as one body of work. The only negative is The Twilight Sad’s policy of writing a novel as well as an album. You put a bit of The Twilight Sad on at a gaff, your mate says “This is good, who’s this?”. You’re excited, they’re invested in your musical taste. “Oh, it’s [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs] by The Twilight Sad off their album IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME” you reply excitedly. It’s been four hours, they’ve all gone to the club and you’re sat in the dark. It’s twilight, you’re sad. Poignant.

Find your highlights where you want to find them and you can’t go wrong. However, the melancholic synths of Keep It All To Myself are definitely a high water mark on the album. Sunday Day13 is particularly heart-wrenching, mixing delicate and moody synths with lyrics that seem to tell a story of a slowly crumbling relationship. Graham’s repeated questions of “Would you throw me out into the cold, would you throw me out into the road?” hitting you in your gut. The meaning of the lyrics are up to you to interpret, but the darkness of the words do not change.

Whilst IWBLTATT isn’t that far a departure from NWTBHANWTL, it’s a definite evolution and favours punchy pop hooks over the intimacy of its predecessor. Tracks like VTr definitely have the DNA of the eighties’ biggest pop tracks and feels like they could spearhead The Twilight Sad into the upper echelons of the genre, and indeed, music as a whole. Whilst some bands cynically pursue the mainstream AHEMBRINGMEAHEMWIFEBEATERAHEM, others find themselves naturally creating a sound that appeals to everyone; the old faithful and a new breed of fans open to pop hooks and post-punk sensibilities.

Though overwhelmingly, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME is a perfectly crafted album, and could well see the band soar to new heights, whilst staying squarely on the ground. Whilst, for now, they stand amongst their influences, they could well soar to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before them. – Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Okay Embrace leave a lasting impression with ‘Drought (Song of California)’

Centered around twenty-year-old wunderkind David Schaefer, who cut his teeth in the L.A. indie rock circles in his teens with the band French Negative, Okay Embrace find virtue in the bedrock of a bygone era of indie rock: the guitar solo.


On the group’s debut single “Drought (Song of California),” the comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo are obvious and tempting (as are the associations with Third Eye Blind and Semisonic), but it’s the forthrightness and immediacy of the Schaefer’s vocals/lyrics that distinguish Okay Embrace from the cluster of 21st century indie bands fighting for attention and adoration with flashy guitar tricks. Schaefer, with his grounded, commanding voice, finds empathy in the bedridden mother swapping poetry lines with her child and the fire abatement officer lamenting his own inefficacy.

The guitars are fuzzed out and sun-faded, which serve the clarity of Schaefer’s singular voice and hark back to alt rock’s heyday in the 90s. There’s a drought in California, as we all know, but through Embrace’s perspective, it’s a global concern. – sean hannah (@Shun_Handsome)

A Wee Chat with…Velveteen Riot

As they prepare themselves for a tour that will take them all over the prime cities to play in Scotland, there’s never a better time to sit down with Velveteen Riot than right now.

They’ve undoubtedly become more prominent over the past year, in no small part to them being brought on to support Wolf Alice in 2017 and following that up with a sturdy new EP. So before they set off to Perth in a fortnight’s time, let’s see what the band have to say as liam menzies (@blinkclyro) asks them about their career so far, what makes them stand out and much, much more.

 

photos fae Mairi McAnena (FB)

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TRANSISTOR: Your EP ‘She Rains Over Me’ dropped last month – how have you guys felt since putting it out into public? Is there anything you’ve learned from any of the feedback received?

Velveteen Riot: We were really excited with how much of a response we got with it. It got way more attention than we anticipated and people were reacting really well to it. It’s definitely the work we’re proudest of so far.

T: In your view, what makes Velveteen Riot stand out as a band?

VR: I think what makes us stand out is that we’re basically the ABBA of shoegaze. Though joking aside, we’re not trying to stand out, we’re just making music for ourselves. We started out as four strangers who met online that wanted to play music but as times gone on it’s been out friendship that has driven the band forward. We’ve become really close, Velveteen Riot wouldn’t work without all of us – we’ve not had any lineup changes because to do that would be to change the entire dynamic of us as a band. I think this is what grabs people’s attention as we’re just trying to be ourselves rather than trying to emulate anyone else.

T: In addition, what’s your general view of the Scottish music scene, specifically Glasgow?

VR: Glasgow has such a rich music scene with so many great bands and venues. Although, there can be a very cliquey nature to some of it and a lot of smaller scenes have formed within it that can be quite hard to get into if you don’t know the right people. It’s a bit like high school in a way – if you get in with the designated cool kids you’re able to get much more attention than the bands that are still starting out, or running their own gigs.

That being said, we’ve had such a great experience playing in Glasgow and have gotten to play with some great bands. We’ve all grown up listening to Glasgow bands and are incredibly proud to be one ourselves and to be a part of such an amazing music scene.

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T: You got to support Wolf Alice – what was that like? Are there any other bands you guys would be keen on supporting in the near future?

VR: Wolf Alice was surreal. It’s been a year and none of us really believe it happened. They were some of the nicest people we’ve ever played with and that gig was one of the moments that made us think, “huh, people actually really like what we do”. It was a big confidence boost for us going forward and it’s given us a real determination to keep developing our sound.

The list of bands we’d love to support is endless really, of course, there’s Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. We’re also all big fans of Sunflower Bean. Additionally, it’d be very cool to support some of the Scottish bands we grew up loving such as Franz Ferdinand, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Pastels.

T: Speaking of gigs, how has your experience playing live turned out? What makes a Velveteen Riot show?

VR: Lots of fun and lots of mistakes. Playing gigs is one of our favourite parts of being in a band. What makes a Velveteen Riot show for us is having a lot of fun and not taking ourselves or the show too seriously. Our confidence playing live is constantly evolving, none of us are very extroverted so it has taken some time to find our feet on stage. We aim to produce the best sound we possibly can and just enjoy ourselves. Overall, I think our authenticity and pure passion for the music is what makes a Velveteen Riot show.

T: Lastly, is there much in the way of plans for the rest of 2018?

VR: We’re planning a mini-tour in Autumn with a couple of our friends’ bands which we’re very hyped about, details on that will be announced very soon! We’re also are planning on recording more music and getting as much stuff out as we can before the year ends.

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stream velveteen riot’s she rains over me here

catch velveteen riot on tour:

18th October – Green Room, Perth

19th October – 13th Note, Glasgow

20th October – Secret Set, Dundee

21st October – The Cellar, Aberdeen

TRANSISTOR Fresh Picks: August 2018

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Another month, another batch of fresh applicants thanks to our pals at SYNCR. New music is always amazing, the brand new sounds rushing over your skin like warm water, immersing you in a new experience. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of August’s hottest new prospects!

Take a look at July’s hot picks here!

Want to have your stuff considered for our Fresh Picks series? Apply here via SYNCR!

Constine

Hailing from Sweden, Hanna Lindgren performs under the name CONSTINE, taking full control of her artistic vision by self releasing her work, and also being multitalented as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

The track provided to us, NEVER, is a rich, immersive mix of sounds, producing a melancholic indie pop feeling track, sounding as if it had been written specifically to be a chart topper. There’s a lot of percussion based instruments in this song, but are used so subtly it creates a really interesting and innovative sound.

If you enjoy toeing the line between indie and pop with a slightly dreamy and psychedelic feel, CONSTINE is definitely for you. She has a rich mix of talents, all of which are on display on the singles she’s released over the last year or so.

Lower Loveday

Oh yes yes yes! This is the good stuff! The good pups! Lower Loveday are an indie four piece, and the track they threw our way, Loved You, is brilliant. Parcelling them off as an indie band feels quite unfair, as Loved You has a swaggering rock and roll feel to it.

Furthermore there’s an eclectic mix of sounds in their catalogue, with their new single Is It Right is a pacey and bassy number. Okay, indie is probably the best way to describe them, but they’re so much more than a generic four lads with Fenders and haircuts band, there’s quite an exciting feel to their sound.

The solo in Is It Right is pretty damn cool as well. It’s hard to give you a “for fans of” description. But if you enjoy a melodic four piece with some hard riffs, eclectic sounds and occasional solos, take a look!

URF

URF is the noise you make when someone pushes you over, OOH is the noise you make when you listen to psychedelic shoegazers URF. In their own words, URF “provide their listeners with a luxurious technicolour of female fronted neo-psychedelic shoegaze, that smashes through the glass ceiling of an exhausted alternative scene”.

To be honest, we couldn’t describe them better than they have. Whilst they describe themselves in that way, they back it up with their sound. Like floating through a purple sky, Say You Don’t Mind moves as quick as it needs to, immersing you in noise and covering you with their blanketing sound.

Their instruments escape from them, but are rooted firmly to the ground with a solid rhythm section, allowing the keys, guitars and vocals to slip the surly bonds of earth and rock the face of god.

I Feel Fine are doing well with an EP wrapped in emo influences

words fae ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

The debut EP from up-and-coming Brighton indie/emo band I Feel Fine acts as an rating 6attempt for the band to start gaining some real recognition for their efforts. The release features five tracks, with the opening being an introduction as opposed to an actual song. At this length, you get a real feel for what this band is all about, which is hard and fast songs that are also catchy enough to stick in the listener’s mind. The inspiration for I Feel Fine is fairly apparent from the get-go with the all-American emo punk rock sound taking its place front and centre on the EP. Popular bands such as Modern Baseball and Remo Drive can be heard in moments throughout the release, which makes a nice change from the regurgitated sounds that many promising British bands seem to take on.

One highlight from Long Distance Celebration is the playing and instrumentation. Nearly every aspect of the instrumentation is solid, with the band playing both loud and quiet equally well and going back and forth between the two effortlessly. The songwriting on the project is good enough but doesn’t stand out, in part due to the vocal performances. The vocals on this EP are one of the major issues, with the mixing occasionally leaving the vocals feeling lost and washed out. The whole group shouting thing also gets a bit repetitive and generally feels distant, not offering a personal feel during the songs, for the most part. Exceptions to this do occur, as sometimes the vocals do work, like at the beginning of Everyday Safari, where the vocal almost give a Modest Mouse type effect, which is obviously great.

The closing track, Pan For Gold also has that more personal feel, but it would have been nicer to have that kind of sentiment on other tracks. That is not to say that the tracks that feel less personal are bad at all, in fact, they are good, upbeat and catchy indie rock songs. Already mixing catchy melodies and transitioning between different intensities shows the talent from I Feel Fine, which is impressive considering this is the band’s debut EP. In terms of the tightness of the playing on the EP, there aren’t any bad moments and it would be hard to tell that this was the first release of any band, with some moments sounding like cuts off of albums by well-established bands that have likely provided inspiration for this project.

Overall Long Distance Celebration is really good for a debut EP but could really use a more personal touch. While I Feel Fine sound different from many of their British contemporaries, in the grand scheme of things they do blend in amongst other up-and-coming emo/punk indie bands and their inspiration maybe shines through a bit too bright sometimes. However, managing to blend into a sound and holding your own is great for a first release and provides a solid foundation to improve on. With such a solid collection of songs released on a debut, it’s clear that this band have potential: now they just need focus on what they’re strongest at and incorporate it to make their own personal sound, whether it be switching up the vocals are adding more interesting features to the instrumentation and production.

Black Foxxes provide a prime cut sophomore LP with ‘Reiði’

words fae oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Back for their second bite of the cherry with Reiði, you’d be hard-pressed to find a daterating 9 in Black Foxxes’ diary where there isn’t something going on. The industrious Exeter three-piece have toured relentlessly since the release of their 2016 debut, I’m Not Well, which was a dark and stormy cocktail of a record and incredibly raw at places, with frontman and guitarist Mark Holley describing his battles with mental health and Crohn’s disease with poignancy, style, and riffs.

Reiði is a certain evolution in Black Foxxes’ sound, pushing their creative boundaries further, but doesn’t stray too far from their alt-rock blueprints. However, where I’m Not Well was dark, Reiði feels like dawn breaking on a new day. Breathe opens the album, and feels like it’s the band trying to move on from the themes in I’m Not Well, with Mark repeating “I wanna set myself free” in the build-up to a beautiful bridge/outro in a beautiful mix of raging guitar and strings. It’s a perfect album opener and really gives you a positive feeling throughout the rest of the album.

Following on from that is a single you should have definitely given your ears to over recent weeks, with Manic In Me feeling dancey, upbeat and anthemic. Definitely one to look out for when they hit the road, with the chorus of “You are the weather, I am the manic in me” bound to get people up and moving. Sæla (Icelandic for ‘blessed’, don’t cha know!) is also another bouncy single that first indicated a shift in the weather for Black Foxxes. It’s a really upbeat track and a definite highlight of the album; it’s just one of those that always gets you bopping along. We are all wilder people!

The absolute highlight of this album is up for debate, as there are two prime cuts from this prime cut of a record. Oh, It Had To Be You is absolutely fucking sublime. The intro with the haunting, echo-y piano making away for heavy stabs is brilliant. If one track proves that Black Foxxes have evolved their sound and knocked it up a gear, Oh, It Had To Be You mixes the melancholy of I’m Not Well, the beefed-up sound of Reiði and the production values of a band that mean business with the underlying strings. Lyrically as well, it’s gone to the next level, with “Neon, light show, filling up the sky it paints the moon’s glow” running over you like fine silk, but it’s Mark shouting “Liar, liar, liar watch it as she moves me.” towards the end of the song, making way for stabbing, screaming guitar that really lights up this song. Jesus Christ, that song, that song, Jesus Christ.

However, stepping into the ring to challenge Oh, It Had To Be You is Flowers. Flowers are pretty & serene. This song is everything but. Reiði is Icelandic for ‘rage’, and Flowers captures that word perfectly. “I am rage. I am a castaway. I am unusable.” shoot through you like needles, before an explosive ending sees Mark scream “I am rage” and “Yeah I’m on the edge”. If Reiði had a theme, it would be “surprise party, but a surprise party where you get powerslammed through a table”. The serene, delicately picked intros lure you into the lovely flower garden, only for the black clouds to form, and heavy riffs burst through the sky like thunder and lightning. Argue it amongst yourselves, but both of these songs are the best of the best. Reiði is a perfect album, but these two are that little bit more perfect…

It feels like a bit of a disservice to talk up the shouty parts rather than the well written, poignant lyrics, but the rage you feel when “Come call me erasable” is just yelled over and over in JOY leaves an indelible mark on your soul. In equal parts, Reiði delivers both joy, bliss, and rage in devastating spoonfuls. Same with Take Me Home; there’s a lot of beauty in this song, the soft, emotional feel to it, but it’s the repeated, strained chorus of “Take me home” over a weeping guitar. Largely though, the lyrics in this song are beautiful, yet devastating, with “Teach me to grow, my scars are undone, repairing myself as I let myself go” really hitting you in your heart.

The biggest differences in Black Foxxes’ sound come from The Big Wild and Am I Losing It. In the grand scheme of the big album, these feel more stripped back than the rest of the songs and are very catchy, which should hopefully serve as ‘appetisers’ for an introduction to the wider Foxxes feast.

As Breathe was the ideal opener for the album, Float On is the ideal track to close out and let the credits roll. As the feedback rings out from a dark, stormy track, you can’t help but feel that a note hasn’t been missed, a lyric hasn’t been left unsaid and there was any energy left over. Just two albums into their career, Black Foxxes have managed to capitalise on a strong debut, build on it and create a truly sublime piece of work. There’s no unsatisfied feeling and no sense that they should have zigged instead of zagging. A certain album of the year contender, Black Foxxes will no doubt be heading for the big time off the back of Reiði.