Lasso Moon ScrollerLasso Moon is an amalgamation of two Liverpool bands Broken Men and Sankofa and “Kimota Codeine” is their first single, coming out towards the end of January. The press release describes it as a love song to codeine, but I’m not buying in to that. The minimalist arrangement in the verses of drums and a picked guitar line (and the black and white one-shot, static video) hint at pathos, desperation and addiction rather than any joyous high. Codeine’s an opiate painkiller and highly addictive; this is about addiction to oblivion and shutting out the world. The song and the video show a bleak world where there are no highs or lows, only monotony, and codeine is a desperate attempt to shut that world out, however briefly.

None of this is a criticism of the song, which evokes this twilight world perfectly, with downbeat verses and choruses which are marginally more positive. Combined with the video it creates a stark vision, where the illness is only slightly worse than the cure.

 “Kimota Codeine” is released on Friday January 27th.

sokol_cover_2016Where do we start with this one? Well. It’s not a cover of the Edwin Starr disco classic. It’s project, featuring music and video, dealing with the alienation in modern technocratic society and trying to encourage us to reconnect with nature and each other by stepping away from the machines. Sokol (Czech for falcon, apparently) crowd-funded “Contact” by going out on the streets with a t-shirt and a piggy bank to advertise the project.

The song is built on a thudding bass line, shimmering indie guitar sounds and some of the dirtiest synth gurgles you’re likely to hear. It builds to a peak, breaks down before building again to a climax with some heavenly harmonies. It’s a very listenable piece of guitar pop/indie. But you really need to watch the video.

It was shot in Mongolia and has the production values of a BBC nature documentary. It’s a stunning piece of filming, showing the sheer joy of a father and son on horseback hunting with eagles. It meshes perfectly with the song’s message of disconnecting to reconnect, creating a hauntingly spiritual audio-visual experience.

“Contact” is released in the UK on November 11th, but here’s a sneak preview:

blinding-lights-scrollerIf you like a bit of raw energy and drive in your music, then this one should hit the spot. The Blinding Lights are brothers Callum, Theo and Jack Lury (piano/vocals, drums and guitar respectively) and bass player Will Lord. Their influences are hugely varied, although early Springsteen and various E Streeters crop up regularly. Strangely enough, the overall sound of “I Can’t Get Enough” reminds me much more of Bruce’s old Asbury Park compadre Southside Johnny, particularly in the way the horns are used from the first chorus onwards. There’s a hint of Dexy’s Midnight Runners in there as well.

The song’s driven along through the verse by a pumping one-note bass and a piano motif that’s echoed later by the brass as the song powers on like a juggernaut, running red lights and terrifying pedestrians to get to the girl (OK, it’s a bus really, I just got carried away with the image). The structure’s a lot like an old R’n’B thing where there’s a countdown (say, Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles”) and a breakdown before rebuilding and powering through to the end. Callum’s great rock’n’soul voice (maybe a bit of Steve Winwood in there) rides the rhythm with ease as his story of a lustful encounter builds to a climax.

It’s a thrill-ride from start to finish.

“I Can’t Get Enough” is released on November 4th, meanwhile you can have a look at the video here:

try-try-try-scrollerDespite all the dire predictions, there’s still an awful lot of really good music out there at the moment. The downside of this is that it can be difficult to make your songs stand out from the rest. Rachael Sage passes the old grey whistle test on “Try Try Try” with a slightly unusual arrangement, using a combination of slightly distorted violin and electric guitar as lead instruments and a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. It’s easy to see why this made number six on the radio chart in the US; it opens like a Tom Petty song before the intimate, close-miked  vocal cuts through, followed by an outrageously catchy violin hook. For the soul fraternity, there’s horns and a Hammond; there’s even a violin solo closely followed by a guitar solo and an acoustic breakdown. All the elements for a great single are there and they’re put together beautifully.

“Try Try Try” is released on Friday September 30th and Rachael’s album “Choreographic” follows on Friday November 11th on Mpress Records.

If you want to see Rachael in London, she’s playing at The Troubadour on Friday September 23rd.

Here’s the audio-only clip of the single:

Soap Girls ScrollerHow about something nice and mellow to ease everyone into a new week? I think you may have come to the wrong place, because what we’ve got here is the latest single from The Soap Girls and the song’s title tells you almost everything you need to know. The Soap Girls are sisters Mille and Mie from Cape Town and they’re punchy, savvy and full of attitude. “Bad Bitch” is a raucous mix of stripped-down punk and rock with big drums, a simple riff and the message that no-one messes with The Soap Girls.

But it’s not just about making a glorious noise, The Soap Girls know all about marketing their songs. The whole package is aimed at young men, and that’s not a criticism; Mille and Mie understand that you need to sell more than just the songs in the twenty-first century and they’ve created an image that suggests availability with an element of transgression that’s just about spot-on for their plan for world domination. The video has strong Gothic elements (using a colour palette of black, white and red) and cuts rapidly between costume changes mixed with lots of blood and darkness, but the cartoon violence and self-parody suggest that maybe they’re not taking it too seriously. Why not have a look for yourself:

 

They’re touring the UK and Europe at the moment, so why not go along and see what all the fuss is about.

Alphabetic ScrollerAlphabetic aren’t having any of that shoegazing malarkey. None of your dreary monochrome, monotone moping; “French Boyfriend” is loud, it’s catchy, you can dance to it and it’s Technicolour. It does what every good single does; it grabs you with intro; eight bars of almost disco drums, organ stabs and a great guitar hook drag you into the first verse where singers Walter Heale and Rebecca Lever deliver their sides of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses- girl, boy-stalks-girl-with-new-boyfriend story. And it’s glamorous (and a bit sleazy) because it’s set in Paris.

Alphabetic have mixed a lot influences into this song; the guitar has a clean sixties sound while the production tends towards eighties blue-eyed British soul. Imagine The Shadows in a soundclash with Pulp, ABC and The Associates and you won’t be far off the mark; maybe a little Saint Etienne shine as well. This is a great lead track from their upcoming debut album “Touch”, out on July 15th.

Rod Melancon ScrollerSpringsteen did it with Asbury Park NJ and, much more recently, Michael McDermott’s band The Westies did it with Chicago. They created a strong sense of place with characters and incidents directly observed or based on reality. On his EP “LA 14”, Rod Melancon has gone down the same route with his own little corner of Louisiana. Of the five songs on “LA 14” (produced by former Dwight Yoakam guitarist, Brian Whelan), four are stories of life in a small town deep in the American South.

The opening song, “Perry”, is a mid-tempo rocker with a pumping synth bass, telling the tale of the town’s bad boy, before the tempo slows and the time signature changes to ¾ for “Dwayne and Me”, a look back at a childhood friendship ended by Vietnam. “Lights of Carencro” is a menacing and grungy, the production matching the story of sudden death and delayed revenge before the final song “By Her Side” slows the pace to tell the love story of a lonely old man, the melancholy feel enhanced by some delicate pedal steel from Marty Rifkin. The central song, “A Man like Me Shouldn’t Own a Gun” contrasts with the rest of the EP, as an uptempo thigh-slapping piece to make sure the atmosphere doesn’t get too maudlin.

The feeling in the songs doesn’t just come from the lyrics; they’re often pretty matter-of-fact. Rod’s voice, older than its years, seemingly always on the verge of cracking, and some superb playing from Marty Rifkin on “By Her Side” and Brian Whelan’s steadily-rising solo on “Dwayne and Me”, are powerful and emotive; you can’t listen to these songs and not be moved. Rod Melancon understands that the little details add to the pathos; “Lights of Carencro” is more powerful because we know that the dead brother’s favourite song was Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” and it’s always there as a reminder.

There’s a darkness on the edge of this town and Rod Melancon’s songs expose it, but they also capture the human touch that’s always just below the surface. LA 14 -- running all the way from pure pathos to supernatural menace.

“LA 14” is released in the UK on Friday June 17th on Blue Élan Records (BR1015).

Here’s the video for “Perry”:

kakkmaddafakka[1]It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and it’s about time for a quick single review. Kakkmaddafakka are from Bergen in Norway and the single “Young You” is a taster for their debut album “KMF”, due to be released on June 1st. The interesting mix of slowed-down Italo house piano, an ethereal, fragile indie vocal and a bubbling bassline evokes the era of the first dance/indie crossovers when bands like Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons first jumped on to the Ibiza remix bandwagon. This is one of the songs that’s going to sound great at festivals in the sunshine (not Glastonbury then); who knows, maybe it’s the beginning of the third summer of love. And, yes, we do get the EMF reference.

Here’s the video for the single:

Cotton SnowIt’s not a great time to be involved in the arts at the moment, particularly if you’re hoping to make a living out of it but, somehow, people just keep on plugging away at it, grabbing any opportunity that comes along to create something that will enrich the lives of people who see, hear, read or touch it. Dean Owens is one of those artists; constantly touring, recording, promoting and generally getting his songs out there. He knows that you have to take every opportunity that comes along and that’s why a breakfast in a Nashville greasy spoon with guitarist/producer Dave Coleman led to his latest single.

Breakfast led to a quick visit to Dave’s home studio, swapping a few ideas and Dave creating a moody and magnificent backing track featuring drum loops, live drums, bass and an eclectic guitar arrangement which Dean completed with vocals recorded in Edinburgh. Dean’s always been a superb chronicler of emotions and personal history, but recently he’s built a few songs around historical events, particularly on his EP “No Man’s Land” and “Cotton Snow” is a song in that vein, telling the story of a soldier realising the futility of the Civil War, or any war. And cotton snow? When the cotton gins and fields were bombed, the cotton fell back to earth like snow. It’s a sombre and beautiful piece of work that enhances his growing reputation.

If you want to see Dean live, he’s taking part in a fabulous event called The Men from Leith on Friday May 6 at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh featuring Dick Gaughan, Blue Rose Code and Dean with his band The Whisky Hearts.

“Cotton Snow” is out on Drumfire Records on Friday April 15th.

And just as a wee treat, here’s the video:

TLD ScrollerWell, it’s an interesting one. You can certainly pick out the indie influences (Radiohead for a start) but this adds a few touches that take it several rungs above 2016 shoegazing. “Looking Glass” starts with a simple bass riff leading in to an acoustic guitar part which sounds like the theme from a murder mystery set in a southern Italian village and keyboards which thicken the sound out while still leaving plenty of room for the high, ethereal, almost keening vocal. The guitar part alone sets this apart from most current indie bands, but the addition of saxophone as the song builds creates a very interesting soundscape. It’s a hypnotic and almost soporific sound which leaves you intrigued and eager to hear more.

As a first single, “Looking Glass” is good enough to stand on its own merits while hinting at the bigger picture of the album “Duelism” which is released on March 11th. If you want to see The Lazlo Device live they’ll be doing album launch gigs at Camden Barfly on Friday March 12 and Brighton Green Door Store on Sunday March 20.

Meanwhile, here’s the video for “Looking Glass”: