Thursday, 29 September 2016

Never Twice - Nick Waterhouse

Okay i know that i did a review of this LP in July but to be fair at that point it was more of an aspirational thing insofar as i only had one track to listen to. Back in August there was a second track promo'd from the set - Katchi featuring the vocals of Leon Bridges. Both are fecking excellent so by the time the release date approached i was, as you would expect, kind of eager to get the wax onto my turntable and experience this third long player from Waterhouse and co. As the release date is 30th of September i am more than happy that the LP landed to me a day early (believe me but little things like that are surefire ways to make a Dublin Autumn morning into something special). What you have here is an astounding collection of mid century rhythm and blues with a smidgen of jazz, latin and rock and roll. With so many ingredients you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a dogs dinner of an LP but Waterhouse has his sound and style nailed down so tight that theres no danger of any misplaced steps. The RnB tinged rockers are well represented here and interestingly a cover of Dylans 'Baby, i'm in the mood for you' is rendered in the spirit of the Dion version rather than the country blues of Dylan....but with a little added NW thrown into the mix giving it a swinging old time spiritual tone. And that I guess is the difference with what NW is doing. He's not rehashing or repackaging that which has gone before, that would be seen through very very quickly by listeners and in my opinion i don't think that NW would allow that of himself such is his love of this music. There are 10 tracks on this set and to my mind any of those could get their own release on single such is the strength of each individual track. If i was pushed to pick a favourite i would have to plump for the seven and a half minutes of Stanyan Street a bluesy, smoky prowler with Waterhouses aching vocals descriptive of waiting for that girl in that place. Don't get me wrong the rockers are his usual prime quality but this one is just ooomph!

All in all a cracker of an LP and Waterhouse continues to surprise and delight. Head over to Innovative Leisure or to bandcamp to throw your money down and secure your copy.

Never Twice is released September 30th 2016

Monday, 26 September 2016

Take you home - Lack of Afro - LOA

This 45 couldn't be any fresher. Available for pre-order from today this double sided banger delves deep into the soul and groove bag and comes up trumps with two dance-floor gems. Top side has Miss Joss Stone doing the business over a lush dense LOA production. Stone as you will know hit the big time at an early age and was hailed as the new Aretha. I dont know about that but on this outing I am happy to say that her vocals are spot on - straight up no chaser Soulful delivery. She can, and does, hit all sorts of notes and has that sassy quality to her delivery that denotes confidence. And to be fair you need to be confident to do the vocals over an LOA track. Pulling lots of little elements together and forging them into something that is simultaneously retro and timeless, the whole is always much much more than the sum of the building blocks and putting your vocals over that needs to balance with the production quality. Suffice to say Joss Stone doesn't let the side down here. Flip it over for the absolutely wonderful Fires Glow featuring Emma Noble on a piano led slice of pure soulful pop music. Nothing lightweight about this tho cause if you listen carefully you will note the chord structure under Nobles vocal is a solid riff on hope that takes off and soars. A little dollop of brass over a simple organ lick takes us into the final third and as it reaches the end you will already be looking to bring the needle back to the start. Play it loud, play it often

These two sides on thsi 45 are taken from the current Long Player from LOA. You can purchase both from bandcamp page and the discs will be shipping soon. Get in while you can.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Time will pass - The Urges

Finally, the sophomore LP from The Urges lands courtesy of Jonny Hamiltons Mersol music label and having listened to the full set this morning i can categorically state that it has been worth the wait - the guys are back with that discernible sonic swagger that has been their trademark since the release of 2008's Psych Ward and it feels like they have never been away. Like any organism, bands are susceptible to evolutionary forces, to change and move on is not just desirable its fundamental to survival, otherwise the project stagnates, gets boring and eventually withers and dies. 2015's 45 release Passing us by was an indication of where the guys are in terms of development but that release was no transitional snapshot - it was the fully realised staging point in an ongoing development of their brand of jagged edged garage rock. As I mentioned in my earlier review there are little snippets of brass bursting through the sound throwing subtexts out and about and adding another luxuriant layer to an already rich and complex sound. Allied to that is the fact that they are playing around with other genres that complement their oeuvre, drawing in soulful movements and west coast vibes we are treated to a potent cocktail across the 10 tracks that consolidate their standing as bone fide stalwarts of the contemporary garage scene. But don't get me wrong and think that this is some sort of experiment where the band members get to indulge themselves and concoct a messy incoherent ramble of an LP. These guys are far too clever for that, they are adding to their sound, building on it , using it as a foundation and taking it to new heights for some years now and they are disciplined enough to evaluate and include where relevant yet where its not needed they discard without prejudice. It's been sometime since I listened to an LP and walked away from it deciding to finally learn to play that guitar languishing in the record room. Melodic, harmonic, kick-ass rock and roll, it doesn't get much better than this.

Time Will pass is released on 28th October 2016 and is available on LP, CD and digital download. Physical copies can be ordered from Mersol Music website. The band will debut the LP in Dublin Grand Social on Saturday 29th October.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Drama - The Sound of Pop Art

Its apposite that the email address for TSOPA is as the feeling I get when listening to their stuff is that quintessential heritage sound of Pop that was laid down by the likes ofThe Kinks from the sixties and latterly Style Council or EBTG. But this is not an LP of overt or wholesale lifting of influences being dropped in lazily, rather its a more subtle and clever addition to their own creative process and the end result, while still leaving little ant trails for you to follow back to before, is definitely TSOPA. Take for example Generation X, on the surface it has hints of Style Councils Long Hot Summer and you think its (almost) a cover and then you listen to Simon Wells spoken word delivery and it puts paid to that notion. You realise that there's a completely different facet to it... a stunningly beautiful poem that recalls Marvins Whats going on. The theme may not be exactly the same at the macro level but when it all boils down the intent and underlying sentiment is similar. Here's the thing, this is not a one track LP with filler material stuffed in to round out the release.... on listening to this set there's an embarrassment of riches displayed with regard to quality of music. Take for example Kiss The World Goodbye.. a Mediterranean bossa nova with Chris and Gabriela (Giacoman of French Boutik) taking vocals. This is summer encapsulated, laid back blissed out, warm gentle breeze caressing your cheek kind of stuff. Or how about Freedom with Louise Turner on vocals, a happy little arrangement bursting with sunshine that makes me want to throw myself around the room smiling. So High is a British soul club classic - not club classic in a dumshcuss dumschuss way though, just a carefully crafted soul tune with Turner doing her thing, letting the music carry her, and you, along, gently swaying and wallowing in a wrap around sonic blanket. Back to that heritage sound, A Love Solution and Alexander James are British pop (as distinct to Britpop) writ large - honest,sincere and charming in equal measure. Affirming my belief that there are still musicians who care about their craft this set will be in my top three releases when the year comes to a close without a shadow of a doubt.

Drama by TSOPA is released on November 1st . Pre-order your copy from the Bandcamp page. For more information on TSOPA contact them at .

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Front Pop - French Boutik

After three critically lauded  EPs the Boutikers are back with their crowdfunded debut LP on the German CopaseDisques label giving us another dose of their infectious 'Pop Moderniste' sound. Inexplicably although I am a huge fan this is the first time, other than the comment on their inclusion on the Generation Mod Review, that I am reviewing a release from the guys on this blog. Recorded in the Yeah!Yeah!Yeah! studios in Hamburg this highly anticipated set is another strong statement of intent full of harmonies and deft instrumentation that is a trademark of FB. As with all FB releases there's an optimism and freshness apparent in all the tracks irrespective of the subject matter that calls to mind the vast swathe of their influences whether it be classic French pop or the New wave of British bands of the eighties - a sort of insouciance for want of a better expression. But an insouciance that has been hard earned with plenty of application to the craft of writing and performing.  Take for example Le Expert, its not a problem that its french lyrics are indecipherable to a failed french student such as I, clipping along with Serge taking vocals for this one and Gabriela and Zelda filling in the backing the whole rhythm and tempo charms and draws you in.

Hitch a Ride has been up on youtube for some time now as it was used in the crowdfunding drive so should be known to most - this is one of the best tracks I have heard them put onto wax (or any other format). With Gabrielas wistful vocals commanding proceedings its a beautiful poem to a partner...there's no dewy eyed sentiment or overtly romantic idioms just a musing on the mundane and the celebration of L'amour.

The acoustic opening of 'Impitoyable' leads us into a perfect sunshiney skip along pop song and is anything but merciless...again there's that feeling that this kind of stuff is second nature

My selecting of this clutch of songs from the 11 tracker shouldn't be taking as an indication that the other 8 tracks are somehow lesser. From the opening bars of 'Le Mac' right through to the fade out of the contemplative The Rent we are treated to songs that stand up well on their own merits but as a collection they are testament of where this band are at the moment - top of their game

Front Pop is released October 21st and launched at the Paris Mod Weekender. Available in  limited edition vinyl LP incl. double sided DIN A2 poster + free download code. There will also be digital format available.

you can order the LP from French Boutik online shop or from the Copasedisque website

Monday, 12 September 2016

Aint it time - Sonic Keys

Don't know much about these guys but am loving the groove they are laying down on this freshly minted 7". Coming across like an interlude taken from a seventies blaxploitation movie, and with a looped 4 note riff playing all the way through, this is a hypnotic funknsoul masterclass in atmosphere and tone. I defy anyone to listen to this and not recall imagined scenes from seventies ghetto movies. This is not the theme tune, its the music you hear in the background when the protagonist is following up a lead in a bar, or is driving around the city head swivelling side to side as he takes in the ghetto looking for the guy that holds the key to the whole case. Whatever your own little scenes are, imagined or real, this one will invoke them. This ain't a dancer, no histrionics or jumping around on display here just a competent and confident composition that knows exactly what it is trying to say and is a master of the lexicon. Halfway through is a breakdown into hand-clapping, bongo and funky guitar, a little breather if you will, before we segue back into that riff and some glorious sleazily evocative organ. From what I can discern this is the debut release from the guys, going to be interesting hearing what else they have in store for us as they develop.

Ain't it Time is available on 7" to purchase over at Soul Mule Records .

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Full Phantom Four EP - Deep Six

There's a clutch of bands out there with the name Deep Six so if you googling them you will need to go through a few pages before hitting the right gang. So now that we have you settled on the right lads lets be having it. Comprising members of Makin Time, Upper Fifth and The Threads Deep Six is a bit of a Mod supergroup but outside of that mention I wont delve into their histories or whats gone before, its the music that I am reviewing here rather than the pedigree. The preview that I have had thus far augurs well for what these guys are in the process of achieving . With two guitars in the lineup there is a deep richly flavoured tone to all the tunes on this EP and this seems to nod in the general direction of the sixties Californian Deep Six outfit who purveryed that West Coast golden age psych lite sound.  I wouldn't say that is a psychedelic set as there are, and its to be expected, other influences on show here. Anyone who had an interest in British power pop (a much abused term if ever there was one that seems to encompass any band from late eighties and early nineties that had any sort of Mod shape about them) will recognise the positioning of the band here - an honest, no nonsense almost artisanal approach to telling stories via music - you know, the sort of thing that seems to have fallen out of fashion and been replaced by trite lyrics, vocoders and snazzy whirlygig geegaw chicanery. The music offered up here is literally dripping with delicious melodies and harmonies seemingly simplistic, but in reality complex, layered and nuanced, and totally satisfying for the listener. This is not a record that will make you get up and dance nor is it wallpaper music. You are requested to listen, digest and cogitate rather than have it as just another noise to accompany whatever electronic trinket holds your attention at that moment in time. And so it seems that the pedigree is inescapable insofar as these guys are taking us back through their, and by extension, our own, musical path and asking us to look back through the years to what has gone before and use it as a reference point for what they are doing. An impressive debut.

Heavy Soul records release Full Phantom Four EP on Monday 12th September. Go here to purchase a copy 

The release is limited to 250 copies so get your skates on or forever bemaon the fact you were too slow and missed out

Monday, 5 September 2016

Night Shift - The Buttshakers

With the last three reviews being non soul material I had expected to open this review with something along the lines of "Well its back to Soul this time around....." but thanks to some genre mashing from these guys I very quickly dropped that opener. Don't get me wrong there is a huge soul quotient on each side of this Long Player there's also some tracks that move out of the spectrum into a harder garage tinged sound and in one or two instances we are smacked squarely in the face by pure rock licks. Ciara Thompson the vocalist has a deadly set of pipes on her and she can handle the mellowness of Soul music and then when the call arises get down and dirty with the rocking southern soul style shouters. There's a definite harder edge to her voice than say Sharon Jones and the arrangements always give her space to play around dipping in and out of either the soul or garage space. And you know what although I am catholic in my soul music I can applaud this pushing the boundaries and seeing what is possible whilst keeping the listener engaged and on their toes (literally and metaphorically) so to speak. That being said the tracks that work for me are those that inhabit the soul or funk space - 'I Wanna Know' is a choppy guitar and upfront drum funky dancer, 'Chains' is a contemporary soul mid pacer and 'I Wait' could have been recorded in some southern state chitlin circuit sheebeen. Top track of the set for me is 'Satisfied' with little stripes of JB funk mixed with straight soulful phrasing from Ciara. For those who like dirty soul then check out the title track - monstrous fuzzy guitars opening up proceedings that just takes off into a big heavy gritty shouter. I dont know whether its Soulful Garage or Garagey Soul but its great fun and puts a grin on this reviewers face.

The Buttshakers Night Shift is available from the bandcamp page or the Copasetic website where you can also pick up Soul Kitchen and Wicked Woman Releases.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Spark to Start - The Spitfires

It's not often that you get something for nothing - as i am sure we can all testify theres usually a hidden cost, embedded in the small print and not readily recognisiable. In this instance this one is completely genuinely buckshee, no T&C's to worry about, not a sausage being requested other than 3 minutes of your time to listen, evaluate and hopefully cherish. Recorded at Soundlab studios on 26th August 2015 its a live version of Spark to Start that is on their Response LP. Not a bad introduction if you haven't heard the guys before (have you been living in a cave?). Billys vocals are straight up and brash and the production is spot on - I doubt this was just a spur of the moment take. All in all not a bad little prezzie for a Friday. Stick it on your iPod and label it Mod !

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble - same

I mentioned these guys earlier in the month when I reviewed the City Heights 45 taken from this, their first album. If you checked out that track then you will know what is on offer here but i am confident that there will be some nice hidden surprises once you wrap your ears around this LP. An all instrumental LP that offers up so many different soundscapes with each track standing on its own and yet remaining part of the whole presentation, is something that we don't often encounter such is the emphasis placed on vocal prowess on the funk and soul scene. But that's exactly what this one is and the results are striking and make this LP one of THE albums of 2016 for me (even though it was released in 2015). There are classic funk numbers (Sweltering Heights) here mixed in with Southern soul groovers (IB Strutting), heavenly big band bluesy Jazz (Funky River) , spy themed paranoid look over your shoulder moments (Lane Changin) and to round off my similes the absolutely archetypal Californian sound of the aforementioned City Heights. With not one vocal uttering on the record one would be forgiven thinking that it all gets samey after a while but  thanks to a fantastic set of musicians working on artfully produced solid compositions I have not found this to be the case. And lets be honest - this is a Work of Art, drenched in symbols and meanings with hidden depths, there's a lot that the listener can take away from this Californian outing other than just a collection of nice instrumentals. Production is tight and there is not a stray or irrelevant note nor chord cluttering up affairs. Just like California state this is a big, sprawling yet tightly constructed collection. Get the LP onto your Stereo, pour yourself a cold glass of your favourite tipple and kick back in the sun and bask in the magnificence of this set.

LP and CD can be purchased from Colemine records  or you can purchase from Bandcamp