Album Review: The Amazons – The Amazons

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

Some bands feel like an encapsulation of the era they came from. The Beatles/Stones sum up the psychedelic 60’s while bands like Nirvana and Oasis are archetypal of 90’s culture. Sadly, The Amazons are not one of these bands. Instead, they feel like the type of band who would openly claim to be born in the wrong era, pining for either decade previously mentioned, while completely missing the point of both.

It’s not that the music the Reading four-piece make is horrendous by any means, however, it’s just so undeniably bland. You’ve heard every song on this album at least once since the mid-2000s and done far better than on this debut which is a shame, as you can tell that The Amazons have the best intentions. Musically they’re capable and have an evident love for the genre, but sadly a repackaging of old ideas doesn’t make for interesting listening.

Take, for example, lead single Junk Food Forever which was first released back in 2015. The lyrics are tenuous, to say the least, (“junk food together, late nights together, jackets of leather, I can’t forget ya”) and it’s incredibly radio friendly sure: it ends up coming across as a very basic cut and paste guide to indie. The entire song moves along at a fairly consistent plodding rhythm, unable to produce the energy the genre is renowned for. There is an attempt of a breakdown towards the end of the song, which almost saves it but just lacks any urgency whatsoever.

Sadly, this becomes a trend on the album. You can tell what the band are trying to do, but it’s completely uninspiring for the most part. However, the tracks In My Mind and Little Surprise do come as enjoyable diversions from the dullness. The former is a darker track sure to appeal to fans of AM and Royal Blood which moves along at a nice pace with a suitably in your face riff and visceral charisma from lead singer Matt Thomson.

The latter is the most mature that the band sound on the record, everything feeling meticulously planned to fall apart here. From the atmospheric intro through to the final notes, it’s clear this will be a live favourite. It’s a punky diversion from the mundane, and a definite route that the band should look to pursue on further records though that’s not to say that each diversion from the indie formula works on here, however, with final song Palace feeling incredibly misjudged. Seeming incredibly tacked on and only there to prove they can be serious, this transparency leaves a very sour impression and makes it hard to put the album on again soon after.

It’s a shame that The Amazon’s debut is at best inoffensive as there is a good band in here, they’re just a bit confused on record. Instead of trying to replicate indie that’s been and gone, they need to look forward. If they harness the energy found on In My Mind and Little Surprise, there is a real chance that LP2 could stand to be one to watch. As it stands, their debut does very little to impress.

3/10


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Track Review: Courtney Barnett – How to Boil an Egg

By Patrick Dalziel (JoyDscvryPaddy)

It seems we’re getting quite a bizarre insight into Courtney Barnett’s live rider in her latest singles. First we heard of her ramen noodle addiction in Three Packs a Day, and now we have this yolk titled oddity. Although thankfully, this isn’t just Barnett’s progression into releasing “foodie” music. It is instead a reworking of one of the first songs the ridiculously talented Australian singer/songwriter ever wrote. 

Telling the story of life in her early twenties, How to Boil an Egg may be less humourous than Barnett’s breakthrough singles such as Elevator Operator or Avant Gardener. But, the rework has introduced her atypical guitar style to great effect. A garage spin on psychedelic/surf rock, which creates a sound that is borderline inimitable. Even if it is played with slightly more caution here than in previous entries.

This is knowingly done however, to reflect on what was clearly a tough time in the singer’s life. With lyrics such as “Every morning I feel more useless than before, trying hard to see the point in anything at all” It’s one of her most self deprecating songs undoubtedly. Yet this harshness acts as one of the song’s most clever devices. We’re given an extremely intimate insight into the life of a struggling musician. Through the trivialisation of difficulties young artists face on a daily basis.

With a less talented writer than Barnett at the helm, this could have come off as heavily misjudged. Thankfully this isn’t the case here, as each verse gives only the slightest insight into the lifestyle. Reflecting upon the monotony of trying to break through in the industry, as days fall into the repetitive nature of playing gigs and waiting to be noticed. This existential theme plays perfectly against the garage psychedelia mentioned before. The result of which is a joyously contrasting sound, that allows How to Boil an Egg to stand out amongst Barnett’s already very impressive back catalogue.

8/10


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TRACK REVIEW: Feels Like Summer by Weezer

By Fraser McGovern (@FraserMcGovern)

In 2009, alternative rock outfit Weezer released their seventh album. It was called Raditude, and it was not good. The band had already started to shift in a more commercial direction with their recent (at the time) hits Beverly Hills and Pork & Beans, but this new album alienated fans with its over-egged production and flat, cheesy songwriting.

Now, after two great albums that harked back to the band’s heavier roots while still bringing new tricks to the table, Weezer releases a new track. The internet grumbles through gritted teeth that it sounds like a cut straight off RaditudeA great many music fans with ‘alternative’ tastes can enjoy pop for what it is: accessible, catchy music with more focus on surface than substance. Feels Like Summer is all surface and that’s okay.

This single is essentially a simple four-chord pop song. We begin with a sampled “na na na” hook reminiscent of Fall Out Boy’s Light Em Up, and then go into a verse that consists of simple, plinky piano chords and even simpler vocals from Rivers Cuomo underpinned by pounding electro bass. After a Calvin Harris EDM-style buildup, we come to a chorus that proclaims in falsetto that “Yeah it feels like summer”. Fair enough, it’s pop.

More to the point, it’s catchy pop. We all know that Cuomo is capable of writing great hooks when it comes down to it, and this chorus is certainly single-worthy. After a fun middle eight, we have a brief whistle interlude that’s reminiscent enough of Flo Rida’s 2012 hit Whistle for you to be a little bit sick in your mouth. It’s worth reminding you at this point that this song is by an actual band with proper real instruments. The meager total of two seconds of distorted power chords in the track sound like they were played by a robot.

The lyrics aren’t great, obviously. “I’m holding on and I don’t want to let you go”? That’s what could be called an ‘autopilot line’: songwriter Cuomo probably began to feel his fingers writing the words before he’d even thought them. You may have heard that exact string of words in three pop songs just today, but verses are the stage for Rivers’ trademark lyrical quirkiness. (I’m spiritual, not religious / I’m a libra, if it matters”)

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If feel-good, disposable radio songs aren’t your thing, Feels Like Summer is not for you. The solid production, infectious melodies and Cuomo’s unconventional lyrics push this track firmly into the ‘good’ category of commercial pop music, but not quite into ‘great’. This could become a mainstay in your summer jams playlist, but only if you let it envelop you in its warmth.

What most find so offensive about this song is not what it is, but rather what it isn’t. In the eyes of fans, time spent creating this song could have been spent on tracks more like those found on last year’s acclaimed self-titled LP. With Weezer, though, you have to take what you’re given. Or leave it.

6.5/10


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Young Thug – Jeffery MIXTAPE REVIEW

The hip hop Ziggy Stardust and the human embodiment of being hard to pigeonhole, Young Thug certainly thrives off his unconventional style. This no doubt applies to his work load with Thugger being just as occupied as he was in 2015 with the final instalment of his Slime Season series landing along with I’m Up in the first half of the year alone, heavily contrasting the work ethics of other hip hop heavyweights who now more than ever tend to take ages to craft their projects (here’s looking at you Frank Ocean).

The constant releases as well as some other elements of this release, such as certain titles of the track “embracing the meme”, could leave you thinking that Jeffery is a release ran by gimmicks rather than genuine talent. Hell, the artwork alone has people heated up, debating whether or not the androgynous dress donning is progressive or exploitative which may be Thugger’s intention. “In my world, of course, it don’t matter: You could be a gangster with a dress or you could be a gangster with baggy pants,” he said in his campaign video. “I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.” In a genre that has often been criticised for its misogyny and, brace yourself, “politically incorrect” views, Young Thug manages to stand out before he even drops a line.

Thankfully, Young Thug has managed to overcome any doubts about the gimmicky nature of this project with songs ran by intriguing experimentation and unparalleled charm. From the get go it’s made abundantly clear that Thugger’s ability to camouflage into whatever style or or sound he’s faced with is matched only by a chameleon with his vocals managing to take on an predator-esque quality. This is especially true on Wyclef Jean where Thugger slip and slides effortlessly through the Caribbean vibes of which there are plenty . The aptly placed Reggae influences are a nod to the fact that most track names are merely misdirection with the main themes of romance and identity being the driving force of Jeffery. “I do me, I do” is a simple hook that manages to condense this message in a catchy way.

It’s for the best that this is the case though as doing so would no doubt leave some of Jeffery’s finest moments on the cutting room floor. Take for instance RiRi where Thugger’s vocals are at their undoubted weirdest, being so wheezy and croaky at the chorus that he verges on resembling a seal screeching in pain which is somehow evoking more than it is hilarious. Then there’s the elephant in the room which is Harambe, an odd choice considering Thugger said in an Instagram post that the tracks were named after people who he idolised. Much like his lyrics though, there’s not much of a reason to dig any deeper in hopes of finding some social commentary as we get Thug’s most primal delivery so far where he goes from vulnerable and gaspy to full on aggro. Dead meme or not, the vocal range on Harambe is an absolute delight and does the dead gorilla justice.

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When Jeffery reaches its finally tuned ending with Kanye West, previously titled Elton John which isn’t hard to believe with a beautiful pre hook keyboard melody from Cassius Jay, we get Thugger being romantic in the only way he can with “Uh, I’m a vet but I’m ready to settle down / I don’t wanna know what’s next / It don’t matter what I do tonight / Cause I’ma know you the best-best-best, yes”. While this “romance” may be juxtaposed by the chorus about anal, the far and few touching lines on a wide array of these tracks, whether it be about doing trivial things or being up front on Harambe where he proclaims “I just want to have a baby by you, girl!”, are enough to balance out the one liners which are passable at worst and hilarious at best.

Whereas previous Young Thug releases have either felt too short or dragged out, the purely personal nature of Jeffery seems to be what makes it feel the perfectly length. “Jeffery is all about Jeffery,” he explained at the listening party. “It ain’t even about Young Thug. Ain’t no Young Thug songs on there.” This realised identity may be another step in the Thugger journey but with the ability to be so varied without losing the charm that has kept him running for his whole career, exciting things are bound for him. With every passing release, Hy!£UN35 seems to be even more unpredictable than anyone could anticipate including Jefferyf himself.

God knows that’s the way it should be.

9/10 

-Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

~

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TRACK REVIEW: Pema – My Intentions Are Good

“Am I doing this right?” questions pop newcomer Pema, real name Alex Cohen, over a simple trumpet accompanied beat and, truth be told, she is. Having went from playing in the band Alex Napping to going solo, she’s swapped out indie rock for electro pop and on My Intentions Are Good, the transition has been fairly smooth though not without its hiccups.

The layered vocals on here help to keep things intriguing though it isn’t how Pema says things but what she says that is the main catch here. Her debut album Doublethink, due out June 3rd, plans on exploring themes such as variance in what we as humans think and how we behave which My Intentions Are Good nods to quite well with the lyrics being rife in self doubt and questioning. It’s a shame that in comparison to the rather smart subject matter that the instrumentals on display aren’t quite as appealing though the minimalistic nature of them isn’t off putting, rather it’s unfortunate timing that they go head to head.

Regardless, Pema is a playing with a rich tapestry of thoughts and ideas that could result in an insightful, captivating listen come the release of Doublethink.

 

Pema
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First week with Fallout 4: A Sorta Review

Foolishly enough, I was planning on reviewing Fallout 4 for some point this week. Obviously not the full game but I hoped to have at least finished the main campaign. Over 20 hours in and I’ve not even scraped the surface of Bethesda’s massive and weirdly beautiful post apocalyptic world so instead of trying to give a review that I can’t justify writing without finishing the game, I’m gonna give my opinions in the style of a diary. Though instead of feelings and stories about lassies you find attractive, it’ll be leaning more towards running for your life away from colossal mutant creatures (so not too different from the bullies you faced at school). Without further ado, here we go.

Day 1

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Unashamedly, I spent far too much time customising my character but then again I did the same in Skyrim. While I made my character look dashingly handsome and roguish, a thought popped into my head: does my wife’s appearance permanently have that default look. Sure enough, after a few”enhancements” to her cheeks and lips as well as turning that forehead into a fivehead, I created arguably the most vile looking creature to ever grace the planet. Well, second if you include Donald Trump.

After that came the tutorial itself, where I got to choose my abilities by answering the door and being able to have the robot Codsworth say “Liam” which caused me to shit myself a little bit. To avoid any spoilers (though if you haven’t picked up Fallout 4 yet then I pity you), me and my family, consisting of my aforementioned Donald Trump wife and son Shaun ended up in Vault 111 and unsurprisingly things went to shit. I escaped my underground hell to make my way to the surface and immediately got blinded by the sunset. Wonder if they have any Ibuprofen in the wasteland?

Day 2

Making my way down town, sprinting fast, mutants pass, now I’m crippled. Thankfully this wasn’t my first taste of death as I met Dogmeat just a few minutes earlier, minding his own business before a pack of mutated mole rats attacked. I blame Ron Stoppable.

Dogmeat managed to take on quite a few by himself and the new combat system made easy pickings of the rest with the first person shooting being far more accurate than previous iterations but still strategic enough to not be a direct copy of COD.

“Finally, an AI character who ISN’T a hindrance” I thought to myself. This, of course, was before I faced my first Deathclaw (think the Xenomorphs from Alien but far bigger and nightmare inducing) where, for some reason, Dogmeat blocked me into a corner. Then the Deathclaw made easy work of my jumpsuit and tore me to pieces. Man’s best friend my arse.

Day 3

The thing about Fallout that appeals to me is the world. I can’t think of any other game with the same amount of character than Bethesda’s rendition of a post nuclear America with the mid 1900’s aesthetic abundant wherever you go, giving off a chilling, eerie vibe. As well as this, the world is so full of stuff to do that there’s no way you’ll simply go from point A to point B without stopping by a few dozen places. This is what happened on my way to save a settlement that had been attacked countless times by raiders where I found a lone settler having troubles with this dam looking contraption.At first I thought it would be a simple “find the plugs under water, turn them off” which led me to get radiated to fuck which dramatically reduces your health until you find radaway.2884112-fallout4_e3_cityvista_1434323956

Thinking the end was over, I walked up to the settler to get my reward as he stared blankly into my eyes, showing off how terrible the characters in this game even on the current gen consoles. Oh, and then a mutated pack of crabs called Mirelurks cut my head off. And Dogmeat just stared at my lifeless body. Fuck you Dogmeat.

Day 4

Spent the whole day running away from Dogmeat, hoping he’d realise how raging I was with him. He followed me before I fell off a cliff and crippled my legs, a fall that should have killed me instantly. Think it was the game’s intention as Dogmeat “playfully barked”. Again, fuck you Dogmeat.

Day 5

Fallout 4 not only polishes any gripes that I had with Fallout 3 and New Vegas but it also adds some new mechanics of its own. Settlement building is one of these new gameplay elements where all junk both in your inventory and the surrounding area can be used to make your own town.

Sounds addictive right? You’re not wrong at all, in fact the crafting system in this game is almost as addictive as the quest themselves as I’ve spent more time than I’m proud to admit making a defence tower for Sanctuary. Not only is it fun but it makes my urge to loot and carry everything in sight actually beneficial, making me feel good about my hoarding problem for once. This time Dogmeat didn’t lead to my demise, instead proving useful by finding useful materials and not being a pain in the arse. He’s since been forgiven and a doghouse has been built to repay him for the good deed of not killing me.

Day 6

Need to find materials. Need to add another turret to the tower. Need to craft stronger power armour so I can be the human embodiment of the Batmobile. It’s 2am but I NEED TO DO EVERYTHING.

Day 7

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Fallout 4 has been out for a week now and I still can’t get over how full of things to do it is. I’ve explored a 1/4 of the map and although many people have complained about the size of the world being smaller than other games like Just Cause’s Panama, the level of detail and the amount of fun I’ve had is something that I haven’t experienced since Batman Arkham City. The story is engaging, the gameplay has been vastly improved and although Fallout 4 has adapted to fit into the current standard of games, it never loses any of the series charm. It’s still funny, it’s still horrifying, it’s still jaw droppingly beautiful despite looking like a 360 game.

Fallout 4 might not be the best looking game ever or the biggest. It’s got glitches and bugs. It can be infuriating at times. But it’s Fallout and its charm and quality outweigh any technical problems. Game of the year? It very well could be.

Big love, Liam x

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Life Is Strange: Game of The Year?

2015 has been full of blockbuster games like Call of Duty. So how did a game featuring two teenage girls manage to steal the Best of 2015 crown?

I knew you were important the moment I saw your first selfie,” says a familiar yet mysterious voice as soon as Life Is Strange’s finale boots up, a line that, out of context, sounds tacky but when the previous four episodes of this episodic extravaganza are taken into consideration, it’s enough to send a chill down your spine.

Life Is Strange is undisputed brilliance

Unlike most games in the adventure genre, LIS has more in common with Telltale’s The Walking Dead than the likes of Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry as you solve puzzles, interact with different characters as you try and make sense of what the hell is happening. This makes protagonist Max all the more relatable as she is equally clueless, trying to cope with the challenges that face every teenager like making friends and being successful. Oh, and time manipulating powers. Almost forgot that.

This isn’t Back To The Future-esque time traveling where you’ll go back to different eras like World War 2 or the 60’s. Instead, the player has the ability to rewind time to help tackle problems and erase mistakes, by minutes rather than millennia. The function works so seamlessly with what’s going on around you in Arcadia Bay that it never feels like a gimmick.

Your curiosity is often accompanied by a niggling feeling that something around the corner is going to bring your journey to a swift end.

Weirdly enough though, Moris says that this isn’t the most talked about thing in regards to Life Is Strange. Talking about the backlash from the game following two female protagonists, he said “I think a lot of the thinking that happens in the industry right now is still based on cliché that was inherited from the 90′s, where only 15 year old boys who wanted hyper sexualised female characters or to be bad asses and those big guys going into war played games.

Publishers think it’s not going to work because it has a female character, so they wont invest into the marketing of this game. Then it doesn’t work – because there is no marketing – but the blame lands on the game having a female lead character, and the cycle goes on and on and on.”

Not only are the characters great but also the story that spans over the five episodes never gets boring or predictable. The main plot of the game concerns the disappearance of Chloe’s friend Rachel and as the game progresses, it starts to become more twisted and dark. At points your curiosity is often accompanied by a niggling feeling that something around the corner is going to bring your journey to a swift end.

Life Is Strange is undisputed brilliance and a strong contender for game of the year. The dark and emotional story, perfectly suited soundtrack, the entertaining cast of characters and the beautifully crafted world of Arcadia Bay left such an impact on me that it was a shame to have to leave it and with a season 2 recently being confirmed, I just hope more focus will be put on this interesting setting town full of corruption and bleakness.

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens final trailer review

I feel like a spoilt child at the moment, like it’s Christmas came early. Last week there was the release of the Star Wars Battlefront Beta, which you can read my thoughts about over here (unsubtle beg), which for a lot of people had them reliving the PS2 days of fighting on Hoth with their pals until the early hours of the morning. Then 2 days ago we got this amazing poster that was meant to tantalise our sci-fi tastebuds until last night.

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“But what happened last night” you most likely won’t ask. This happened.

Released in the early hours of the morning for us over here in Britain, the trailer didn’t exactly make a Beyonce style entrance by coming out of nowhere. In fact, it was quite the opposite as the trailer itself had two teaser trailers to promote it, sort of like how Deadpool did it *cough* which you can read my thoughts about over here *cough* though what else do you expect from one of the highest grossing film series of all time. Even if you don’t like Star Wars, it’s become a staple of pop culture and many scenes and characters have been inscribed in our heads, fact this is.

Which is why I’ve unashamedly watched the trailer a total of five times already and no doubt I’ll watch it another fifty times before the film releases on December 18th. I, like many other people my age and older, have grown up with the series, watching them on loop whether it be on VHS or the countless repeats on ITV2.

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So if you couldn’t tell already, I loved the new trailer and I’m more than aboard the hype train, something I told myself I wouldn’t do due to the sour taste the prequels left in my mouth. The fact that the movie isn’t out for another two months is probably the only problem I have with it (that and the absence of Luke), even then I doubt I’ll get to see it as soon as it is out anyway with how fast tickets sold out for its first day of release.

Letting J.J Abrams take the helm of the project was probably the best decision Disney have made since greenlighting a Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel as the Star Wars universe has never looked so damn good. Even the shortest scenes like the brief dogfight featuring the millennium falcon had me amazed as well as engrossed, something that the prequels failed to do. With his success rebooting Star Trek as well his work on Mission Impossible and Lost, I’m more confident than ever that he’ll be able to balance the story and set pieces that made the original trilogy such a classic.

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One of the main problems with the prequels was how terrible the characters were, not wanting to name names but a certain Jamaican talking, rabbit looking thing lives in infamy as being one of the worst things since bubonic plague. Right maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement but with an unclear protagonist in The Phantom Menace, forced vomit inducing romance in The Clone Wars and a moody emo Anakin for Revenge Of The Sith, it was very difficult to like any of the characters.

With the glimpse we’ve had of The Force Awakens, we’ve got a set of new faces as well as old. We have Finn (John Boyega) who plays a Stormtrooper that, from what I know, witnesses something that results in him leaving The First Order, leaving him alone and confused which is something that viewers can relate to as they return to a universe that has changed since we last saw it 30 years ago. Speaking of First Order, there’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who leads this new empire in order to, as he tells the decimated helmet of Darth Vader, “finish what you started”. (Bonus points to you if you spotted the symbolism!)

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Last but not least, we have Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who a lot of fans suspect has some link to Kylo Ren. Despite this, it seems like she’ll be a welcome change to the tired damsel in distress trope that both men and women are growing sick of. With Han Solo himself showing up alongside Chewie and Leia, the trailer was not only a welcome introduction to what we can expect from this new trilogy, it was a trailer made for the fans.

Will Episode VII be any good? Who knows. We all got ourselves way too excited about The Phantom Menace and look what happened there. However, from what we know and from what we’ve seen, things are looking far more positive. If the final film can evoke the same emotions the same way the trailer made me feel when Finn and Kylo Ren drew their lightsabers to fight, then The Force Awakens will be a worthy addition to the Star Wars franchise.

So what are your thoughts about the Star Wars trailer? Excited? Dissapointed? What’s your favourite moment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below since I’d love to see what you thought of it. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @blinkclyro for some more fanboying.