By Edward Burnett
It is no secret that the Arctic Monkeys are my personal all-time favourite band. This is for a plethora of reasons but we can whittle these down to their poetic lyricism, complicated-yet-catchy tunes and of course, me being a Yorkshire lad myself like the rocking four-piece. Yet the focal point of this article is a strength of the Sheffield band that is not listed there but rather one that leads to a certain theory I’ve harboured for some time surrounding Alex Turner and Co.
Before we get into the theory itself, firstly I must discuss the strength which prompts this. What really makes Arctic Monkeys shine is their alterations in style and sound from each album to the next. No two releases are ever the same with the band going from indie-punk tones on their debut to a more sonic, stylised rock on the multi award-winning ‘AM’. This knack of changing their image and sound with every album while managing to also succeed in such transitions shows why the band are one of the very best around. The Monkeys’ talent evidently has no ceiling.
So what’s the theory then? What has the Northern English group’s multiple regenerations got to do with anything? Well pardon the pun but let’s build this theory up ‘Brick By Brick’. Firstly, the base-point of my thinking is that there are several songs per album that don’t belong there but rather on the succeeding album instead. This act gives an air of foreshadowing for what is to come in the next album.
One major instance of this is between 2009’s ‘Humbug’ and 2011’s ‘Suck It and See’. I would argue that out of the entire AM discography, these two albums represent the biggest jump in changing themes from both a lyrics and a genre perspective. On one hand we have the aggressive, moody and sonic ‘Humbug’ which encompasses mystery and some dread through its enticing lyrics of danger and mystification. On the other hand we have the band’s fourth studio album, ‘Suck It and See’- a romantic collection of songs that give a quieter, acoustic vibe. Just from these two descriptions, never mind from listening to the two differing albums, one can tell that the band had changed monumentally in just three years. Was there any signs though to suggest this change was coming and thus support the overarching theory of foreshadowing? Yes, yes there were. Take the seventh track, ‘Cornerstone’, from ‘Humbug’ as the key example. This track doesn’t possess the darker themes that show to be the norm in its fellow songs. Instead the song is a far softer romance ballad that feels out of place next to the heavier songs like ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Dangerous Animals’. It’s cute and enchanting aura suits the songs of ‘Suck It and See’ far more with it being extremely similar in content to ‘Piledriver Waltz’ in particular.
Another example amongst many others to point out is the jump to ‘Humbug’ itself from the group’s second album, 2007’s ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’. The Monkeys’ sophomore album brought about the introduction of their now uniquely iconic lyricism which featured symbolic language and references. This was a step forward creatively when compared to their very down to Earth and realism-heavy debut ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. The second album therefore thematically, although changing the way in which the themes were presented via abstract comparisons, did stay the same as the first with a punchy attitude and a positive sound. However, there are some signs on the album which indicate the dip to the darkside that the band were due to take with ‘Humbug’. Namely ‘If You Were There, Beware’ springs to mind at an instant. Here we have a song riddled with imagery of serpents, witches and regret. All these gloomy motifs are painted against a deeper background beat which features sharp and almost unplanned musical twist and turns resulting in an unsettling nature. This very atmosphere is shown regularly throughout ‘Humbug’ and is what the album is of course characterised by.
Whether all this is planned or merely experimental chance, it matters not. What does indeed matter is that it occurs and intriguingly has a long track record of it. Therefore we might all need a closer listen to the Monkeys’ most recent studio release, 2018’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino’, to see what’s in store for us when the band finally reconvene for AM7. I hope my sharing of the theory has added another level to your enjoyment of listening to the band and now we at RNRR aren’t the ‘Only Ones Who Know’ about it.
If you'd like to find out more about Arctic Monkeys and keep up to date with their latest releases and the rumoured AM7, the links to all their socials are below via the icons:
By Emma Furrier
Third albums are notorious for allowing artists free range to explore and solidify themselves for who and what they are. After they shake off the nerves of a debut, and the pressure to prove themselves in a successful follow up album passes, the third go-around is almost always significantly less unsure and more true to the artist’s authentic self. In their third effort, ‘Blue Weekend’, indie-rockers Wolf Alice explore a new realm of rock, focused on plaintiful songwriting and anthemic-shoegaze tracks. In their most progressive, honest, and ambitious record yet, lead singer Ellie Rowsell penned each of the album's 11 tracks with an earnest approach that balances a range of emotions and complexities, all with a skillful and critical eye. Wolf Alice had established themselves as a big name in the indie world, with the success of their first two albums, accompanied by a string of shows as supporting acts for big names like Liam Gallagher, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, and The 1975, and of course their own headlining gigs around the globe. With each tour, they proved themselves as one of the greatest, current live rock bands, garnering the praise of many industry professionals.
Having won the prestigious Mercy Prize for their sophomore album, ‘Visions of a Life’, the band set out to create a bigger and bolder record after spending their time exploring the range of their sound on this previous effort. One thing Wolf Alice has always excelled at, is dissecting the vast range of human emotion, in a prudent context that wears its heart on its sleeve and feels approachable by all walks of life. There is a keen awareness to their music, which continues to excel as they mature both in life and in their sound. Building off of the success of their first two LPs, ‘Blue Weekend’ creates a universe of its own full of eccentric personalities, heady nights on the town and stark self reflection. Ultimately it is acceptance of the good with the bad and embracing the present for what it is. They dream big, while not letting the payoffs of their success dictate who they are. Many of the tracks on this album revolve around the simple things in life, reflecting on quaint moments at the beach with friends and family, and the longing for a traditional happy ending. Themes of loss are explored frequently, without dwelling on any particular moody grievances. Even in the most heartbreaking tracks, Rowsell still approaches them with a sense of gratitude for having experienced such feelings at all. Lost love, lost sense of self, and feeling small in a large city like Los Angeles, all circle back to their humble beginnings in Camden, which they’ve proven formulate the heart and soul of the band. 'Blue Weekend' is accompanied by a visual album, where a music video has been created for each track and portrays a night on the town in London. This time around, the band have heavily focused on visuals and a cohesive aesthetic throughout. The album artwork, photographed by Jordan Hemingway, creates a daze of primary colors and a dreamy quality that perfectly suits the album. For Spotify users, there is a storyline with accompanying images for each track, reading like a script that plays along. Wolf Alice has ensured that no matter how you consume the album, via streaming platforms or a physical copy, you’re immersed in the world they’ve created, both sonically and visually. They’ve reached a new, creative peak that enables a variety of artforms to exist both independently and together.
Wolf Alice offers up their rougher, garage-rock ideations for slightly more transcendental and polished production value. The album is masterfully engineered and produced by Markus Dravs, a frequent collaborator of Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire. Together, they haven't compromised their DIY integrity, no. Rather, they’ve proven their genius in the manner in which they’ve meticulously crafted and manipulated their sound. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, which has always been a requisite for the band. Each member is spotlighted in various moments throughout the album, taking turns to each have their moment to shine, as exemplified in the album’s first single, ‘The Last Man on Earth’. They are stronger than ever in their unity, and know their instruments better, as well. There is a clear sense of craftsmanship and synergy here that is clearer and more compelling than ever before. After ten years of being a band, it has been proven that they are masters of a fiery, electrifying chorus, the gungey, fuzzy riff, and revel in the dichotomy between a stark whisper and a rebel yell. The album is constantly shifting between each of these Wolf Alice essentials, yet it still holds a quality that is bigger and refreshing to their sound, as they explore new territories. In the opening track, ‘The Beach’ there is a sense of gentle familiarity, as the track eases into a repetitive sturm of guitar that steadily builds in rhythm, almost like a kickdrum, while Rowsell’s soft vocals carry you into the chorus with ease. They guide you into the album before a hymnal chorus of beautiful vocals crescendo and sets the mood for the lavishness and grandeur that the rest of the album holds. They let listeners know right off the bat that they are still the same Wolf Alice we know and love, yet they’re not willing to remain complacent. This opener is relatively short, clocking in at 2:35, serving more of a purpose as an opening credit, rather than a stand-alone track.
We seamlessly flow into the following track, ‘Delicious Things’ with an equally delicious kick of drums and change in tempo. Right from the start of this track, it exudes the essence of something entirely different from any other Wolf Alice song we’ve heard before. Layered vocals dance around in a choir of enchanting sound, before lulling to a stop when the pairing of drums and a wah-wah influenced electric guitar snap us out of our trance. Drummer Joel Amey excels on this track, creating a luscious pace that sets the groundwork for every other intricate component that comprises this stand-out track. There is a palpable energy and swagger, as Rowsell’s vocals nearly rap along to the beat in the most gracious way, and eventually pick back up into her harmonious, gravely cry. The basis of the song finds her lost in Los Angeles, exploring the Hollywood Hills. She finds herself in a similar scenario to many greats that came before her, although she doesn’t feel that Hollywood glamor as she stumbles into a bar and gets accosted by its sleaze. The track paints the perfect picture from this moment in Rowsell’s life, exploring her normality and distaste for grandeur in an ironic setting. Along with many of Blue Weekend’s tracks, it appears as a page ripped from her personal diary, but we’re all invited to read. It is humble and Rowsell is forthright in her honesty, singing, “I don't care, I'm in the Hollywood Hills/ I'm no longer pulling pints, I'm no longer cashing tills/ And I'm alive, I feel like Marilyn Monroe/ If you're all poppin' pills, you know I won't say no/ I won't say no, I'll give it a go/ I won't say no, I'll give it a/ Shot for the spot at the top/ A girl like me, would you believe I'm in Los Angeles?” Despite her claims, her mind is still elsewhere. As she reflects on her travels and missing home, coming down from the thrill of it all, she sings, “Extravagance disguised as elegance is boring/ I don't belong here, though it really is quite fun here/ "Hey, is Mum there? It's just me, I felt like calling". The plaintive lyricism here rivals the emotions in some of Wolf Alice’s best work, which has always hinged on their ability to capture Rowsell’s experiences and emotional complexity in a way that feels all-consuming and relatable. This track also proves the growth in her vocal range, exploring territories she has yet to venture into, up until the freedom she found in this album. Almost like a cathartic release, she freely transforms into a bolder frontwoman. In this one track, she shifts from tender sparsity in her tone, to the luxurious sonic opulence of layered cries.
Rowsell’s vocal delivery has significantly embarked on a journey of its own in the process of the album’s creation. While there are still tender, pentalive moments where we find her whispering her infamous, nearly poetic, breathy vocals into the mic, there are always moments where she soars in confidence and clarity, unlike ever before. She further plays around with what she can achieve in the third track, ‘Lipstick on the Glass’. The pre-chorus finds her in a near operatic state, her vocals soaring like an aria amongst a delicately layered instrumentation. It’s rich in composition, and impossible not to be captivated by in each of its manly layers. This track proves that the more you listen to it, the more layers you can peel away to reveal something unheard before. Once again, Rowsell’s lyricism balances between the fine line of poetry and memoir, in a heart-achingly beautiful way. The rawness of her vocals and lyrics contradict the lush production of the track, in a complex duality this album masters.
Contradicting the lavish, polished sounds heard up until this point, Wolf Alice drag us back into the mud with them on their fourth track and the second single, ‘Smile’. A gritty, 90s-grunge-influenced cut, we’re reminded of the band’s roots and earliest tracks, while still showcasing how much they’ve evolved since then. It slaps you in the face with its heavy, fuzzy baseline and steady percussion. This song screams self-assurance and IDGAF attitude, as Rowsell penned the track as a diss towards the plethora of sexist critics she’s faced the brunt of. “And now you all think I'm unhinged/ But wind it up and this honeybee stings/ Did you think I was a puppet on strings?/ Wind her up and this honeybee sings” she spits, before the chorus hits and revels in opulent vocals. It is a fun, tongue-in-cheek, feminist manifesto that truly shines in its unabashedness, and it will certainly be a staple-live track going forward.
‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)’ is a sweet little number, full of bright, plucked acoustic guitar and hymnal vocals similar to the ballads in their previous effort, Visions of a Life. Sonically, it is ethereal despite its subject matter which is anything but romantic. This is yet another track that proves how the band is focused on harmony and pristine melody more so than ever before. The 80s-tinged ‘How Can I Make It OK?’ is a catchy pop song, produced with a high attention to detail. Once again, Rowsell’s vocals soar in this track, proving that changing direction was on the forefront of their minds. It is ambitious and risky, but pays off as the track builds into an anthemic chorus that crowds will blissfully sing with no inhibitions, as intended. Keeping live music in mind, ‘All the Greatest Hits’ is another energetic, loud and brash track that demands your full attention. It is this album’s own ‘Yuk Foo’; is what it is, without trying to be anything more. Plus, we get to hear that iconic, nearly ear-piercing scream that begs listeners to join in. ‘Feeling Myself’ projects an even greater sense of exploration and confidence. It is the single “electronic” cut on the record, without being house enough to deter fans. There is a jazzy vocal delivery up until the chorus, where synth-driven-percussion and even an accompanying orchestral section merge together to create a, you guessed it, electronic burst of sound. If you did not think that Wolf Alice were unafraid of genre-meshing before, this track will certainly make that known. My favorite line on the album is nestled within one of the verses on this song, as Rowsell cheekily sings, “Keep my name on your lips, and let the double L feel like a kiss”. She has never been so poised and self-assured before, and it’s a wonderful new side to see.
The leading single off the album, ‘The Last Man On Earth’ was released in February to instantaneous praise and an uproar of hype for this new side to Wolf Alice. There is much to be said about the power of this track, which was penned by Rowsell after reading Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, and tells its own tale on the arrogance of humans, self doubt, and ultimately, rebirth. It is a sharp and critical assessment of humanity, disguised in a moving, rock ballad. Rowsell’s vocals soar throughout the chorus, but halfway through the track, the song takes a new direction as drummer Joel Amey, bassist Theo Ellis and guitarist Joff Oddie emerge from behind Rowsell’s shadow and send the track soaring to new heights. It’s an unexpected but necessary shift, as a vintage, psych-style guitar solo rips through the pristine piano, and a larger-than-life wall of sound erupts like a choir. It is the album, and the listener's, own moment of sonic climax. The track cocoons you in its warm embrace, before setting us free and allowing us to emerge from its chrysalis, newly transformed. That is the ultimate gripping power this song has, and Wolf Alice knows it. A modern day opus, it has transfixed listeners around the globe in a beautiful, inclusive way.
Coming down off the high of Last Man, ‘No Hard Feelings’ remains soft and easy, flowing gently in a serene melody. It is short and simplistic, consisting of just acoustic guitar and vocals, proving that less is more. While there are lavish moments throughout this album, Wolf Alice have always been self assured in the fact that they don’t need to overload you with complexities and over-produced sounds to create a full-sounding track. They truly are at their best in these softer, more intimate moments, having started off their career laced in folk-inspired songs. The last track, ‘The Beach II’ is a continuation of the opening track. The pair of songs keep the album together like musical bookends. It’s soft, yet still rumbles and sends us into a shoegaze-daze while it delivers Rowsell back to the beach where she started this whole journey, yet is now joined by her girlfriends and shrouded in pure happiness. After the rollercoaster of emotions, and the miles traveled throughout the expanse of this album, we are brought back to the simpler, everyday moments of life, and reminded of what matters most. “The tide comes in/ As it must go out/ Consistent like the laughter/ Of the girls on the beach/ My girls on the beach/Happy ever after” she sings, entrancing listeners into a dreamlike state that plants us beside her in the sand. As the track fades out, we are left to revel in the ebb and flow that this record has guided us throughout. It is highly emotive, intricate, and pure.
'Blue Weekend' has proven that Wolf Alice will not be placed in one box, and they certainly have a lot more to offer than what has been heard in the expanse of their 3 Eps and 3 LPs. They are not done experimenting and evolving, and this album exemplifies that while giving us an alluring promise of more to come. Bold and unapologetically themselves, there is a distinctive sense of everything clicking into place on this record. We still find them in the entanglement of folk, garage rock and shoegaze, although they have certainly left their comfort zone and traded in any industry-formulaic approach for steering deeper into the unfamiliar. Each and every track showcases the prominent sophistication and self awareness of Rowsell's writing and vocals, as well as the complexity of the band's sound. They were never lost in a search for their identity, but rather ambitious in exploring their options, and in 'Blue Weekend' they’ve finally found the perfect middleground.
If you'd like to listen to the album or keep up to date with the latest news from Wolf Alice's camp, you can find the links to all of the band's socials below via the icons:
By Emma Furrier
Hailing from New York and freshly signed to Unispan Records, Weird America is a name you are going to want to remember and with a name so catchy, how could you ever forget it? The four-piece rock band may still be bounded in their youth, but the sound they have created is highly reminiscent of bands that came years before them. With musical inspirations that you’d likely find on a Dad Rock playlist, the spirit they harness in their music is anything but outdated. Formed in 2016 by rhythm guitarist/vocalist Billy Vas Pappas, lead guitarist Daniel J. Caprio, drummer Peter Scarpitta and bassist Bobby Joe Finnegan, the band have honed their craft and chemistry in the crucible of live performance and writing over the past five years.
The heart of the band lies in their live performances, where they get to let loose and exuberate the spontaneous energy that gave them their namesake. In the wake of COVID-19 and the elimination of live music from the entertainment sphere, bands had to learn to pivot and accommodate audiences in new, inventive ways. Harnessing this digitalized world of livestreams and online concerts, Weird America used this new landscape to their advantage. I was kindly invited to attend one of their virtual shows in April, which was held over Zoom to raise money for UNICEF and the global water crisis. Utilizing their platform not only to spread their music and invoke positivity, they also helped out a great cause and further impressed me with their humanity— not to mention the high-energy of their performance that left me satisfied in the way only live music can. The setlist for their virtual show consisted of 12 tracks, many of which are yet to be officially released. Having since garnered a Battle of the Bands win under their belt from Hofstra University’s “Label’d” competition, the band are set to record a double single as they return to the studio this June.
Upon first listen, Weird America maneuver around their instruments to embellish a modernized classic rock, southern rock, and alternative rock hybrid. Implementing many classic guitar riffs and drawling vocals, their sound invokes a particular, intoxicating reflection of American rock music. With their own unique styling, you are immediately immersed into this new, weird Americana. While the band’s lyrics, mainly penned by frontman Billy Vas Pappas, often are centralized around youthful affairs like first dates, forming relationships and getting out of your town, it is the power of their instrumentation that grounds them and reminds listeners of their youthful energy masked in a highly mature sound.
Weird America has the central goal to utilize their music to make their audience “feel, move and get weird”. Another indicator of their youthful spirit that is highly utilized in their songs, is that they clearly are eager to explore different sounds, styles and genres, fluidly gliding in and out without any harsh juxtapositions. Their no-holds-barred approach to music is exemplified in their debut EP, '$5 Omelette' (June 2019), which contains five original songs and was engineered by Mike Makowski (RoyalTMixes) at Livin Live Studio in Queens, New York.
The structure of the songs themselves is anything but conventional, and leaves listeners hanging on to every note. Just when you believe a song has come to its end, the pickup of guitar or the final snare of drums wakes you up again and guides you into the next track with ease. The EP’s opening track ‘Medicine Man’ kicks off the EP with a contagious blues riff before being joined in with percussion in the chorus to invigorate listeners. The breakdown of the song is slightly sedated, but Pappas’ vocals strain with powerful emotion and the tempo picks back up in a way that perks you up and pulls you in deeper. The song fades out with a clutter of spoken vocals overlaying the music and blends seamlessly into the following track, ‘Danny Killed a Man’, almost as if it is a continuation rather than an afterthought. These two opening tracks are the strongest in their effort, blending blues guitar with rock inflections, and topping it off with a killer jam session fueled by electric guitar and persistent percussion. Thematically, these songs are stronger, and are shrouded in a darker, deeper meaning that is left up to interpretation. The finale of ‘Danny Killed a Man’ refuses to be disregarded, leaving listeners in a headbanging state of being. The dark haze lifts as the third track, ‘How to Start the Show’ begins and finds its footing in a lighter and slower production reminiscent of early 2000s pop-rock blends. There are moments on the EP where I am just for a second reminded of acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers in Pappas’ vocals and their musical arrangement. ‘Movie’, the fourth cut, gravitates in a similar realm, while adventuring into a groovier side of their sound that is both effortless and charming. The final track, ‘Take a Walk’ nicely ties up the EP with a similar lighter sound, and concludes with the pretty intonation of piano. From start to finish, Weird America encourages listeners to embrace each shift and get weird. If this first EP is anything to go by, it is a strong start for a promising new rock band.
If you would like to find out more about Weird America and keep up to date with their latest releases, you can find the links to all their socials below via the icons:
By Edward Burnett
I had the pleasure of interviewing English band TxtTalk back in February when they were promoting their single, ‘Hollywood’. The interview was a fun chat which gave a real insight into the bands methods which you can read here. The boys from Hastings are back on our radar again with the recent release of the follow-up single ‘Head Out’. This release is a groovy and chilled track that combines numerous genres with aspects of funk, dance and even reggae beats all featuring. This combination results in the ultimate chill-out song for Summer 2021. Yet as fabulous a sequel as ‘Head Out’ is, I’m here to talk about ‘Hollywood’. Now that I’ve had a couple of months to truly ponder on this song, I find myself loving it more and more, truly thinking that this is a top, top track. I feel this single release succeeds in all three areas of discussion: theme/lyrics, tune/music and artwork.
Starting with the lyrics and tale of TxtTalk’s ‘Hollywood’, the song discusses the themes of stardom and how just maybe it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be. These are important messages to be being delivered by a smaller and upcoming band. It’s a unilateral message of keeping one’s head screwed on and not getting caught up in the glitz and glamour that comes with success in the entertainment industry. Falling into that trap can famously (mind the pun, I know, I know) lead individuals to stray from the beliefs and style that got them to the pearly heights in the first place. This message can clearly be shown in the track’s chorus as the boys sing “Cause this is Hollywood/And I bet you've never felt this good/You've got to give yourself/Brand your soul for someone else”. Here there’s the sarcastic jibe about how you’ve achieved the golden dream that everyone strives for, you must be feeling amazing? This question is satirically posed with the asker knowing full well that you don’t feel amazing as you’ve no doubt had to sell parts of yourself to get into the scenario, shown by the soul branding imagery. Few bands not only address this particular important topic in their music and even less would be so bold as to focus on it on an early single. TxtTalk deserve massive commendation for not only doing this but for doing it so effectively and stylishly.
To achieve this style though, the tune of the song has to be as crisp as the unique topic. The music itself on the single we are now talking about is therefore the core of the release and ultimately the way in which the band can convey the all important message featured in their lyrics. The track is bouncy and pop heavy but unmistakably indie. Therein lies the perfection melodically. This positive and fast paced tune allows the listeners to zoom along the song without seeing the time instead being lost in its fun and funky attitude. The single never goes too heavy either despite the at times depressing topic of losing who you are, rather TxtTalk maintain an upbeat melody throughout ensuring the stardom paradox is fulfilled via the musical notes themselves. Yes it sounds so fun and happy but in reality what is being sung is deeply sad when thought about. The fact the band can convey the overall theme of the song via the music itself rather than just the lyrics is an immense feat which demands recognition.
Finally, the artwork on this single is truly beautiful with the massive canvas do inter-sprawling characters and Hollywood references all culminating in a Where’s Wally-esque image. The picture was drawn up by friend of the band Zak Comyns and Zak’s creative work really isn’t lost on the band either. The guys said about it that “there’s a lot of references in the artwork, from the Church of Scientology to Marilyn Monroe, it's really cool to take a closer look at”. To have a young band so committed to putting out quality album covers alongside of course the amazing music within, is a real treat.
All in all, ‘Hollywood’ is a stupendous single full-stop, let alone when considered it’s been released from an upcoming band. With mature topics and a truly fresh tune which is all wrapped up with a gorgeous and clean-cut artwork cover, the listeners are well and truly given the full package. This is indie music in its prime and the UK industry should feel very proud to have a talented band like TxtTalk firmly on the way up. Already following up this gem with the great ‘Head Out’, the boys from Hastings genuinely have a glittering career ahead of them. After a review like that, I bet they’ve never felt so good. I’ll see myself out.
If you would like to find out more about TxtTalk and keep up to date with the band's latest releases, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons:
By James Bentley
Tom Grennan is a relatively new artist on the music scene. Although his vocals have been featured on tracks by the likes of Bugzy Malone, and Chase & Status, the voice of this young man will have (as of late) remained unfamiliar to many. Despite the release of his debut album ‘Lighting Matches’ which charted at number five in the UK back in 2018; he was yet to make a true impression on the industry.
However, on 12th March, the 25-year-old from Bedfordshire released his sophomore album ‘Evering Road’. Unlike his previous album, 'Evering Road' debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart. Consisting of 14 tracks, and only 46 minutes long, the album takes center stage, and certainly does not shy away. A mixture of indie, singer/songwriter and pop, the album seizes the opportunity to address life’s everyday issues and insecurities, i.e. self-esteem, intoxication, health and most indefinitely - romance. But what makes this album so special is that it uses it’s upbeat melodies, powerful vocals, and ballad like compositions to shed light and breath positivity into these subjects.
Now, an album of this quality could easily be broken down and analyzed track by track. However, as this is an article and not an essay, I can only delve into a selected few.
My first track of choice is also the first track on the album – and this is no coincidence. I am a very strong believer that the first track of an album is one of the most (if not – the most) important tracks on there. ‘If Only’ is a superb opening track, and perhaps one of the most welcoming introductions to an album I have heard for a while. Not only is it composed with power and excitement, but as the young musician revs his vocals like a Lamborghini engine, it certainly grabs your attention and leaves you wanting more.
Furthermore, it sets the tone beautifully for the rest of the album.
Following on from this is ‘Something Better’. One of my fellow peers at here at RNRR referred to the song as a ‘bop’ - a one word description that I am still yet to top in accuracy. It’s bouncy, it’s fun, and truthfully, I am unable to listen to it without ‘bobbing’ or ‘swaying’. However, what makes this song so brilliant is the depth of it. The upbeat tempo conflicts with it’s contents – struggling to move on from someone you still love. The conflict is used to illustrate the artists mental state of confusion as he finds himself unsure of what to do and how to feel. Not only do I feel that this contrast bares resemblance to that of The Smiths, but it also illustrates just how much of a genius Tom Grennan can be as a musician.
My next song of choice is ‘Little Bit of Love’. This is the most recognised and successful song of the album, peaking at number 8 in the UK charts. It is certainly one of the more ‘pop’ like songs on the album, and that is exactly why it stands out. Not only is it extremely catchy, but it also expands further on the content of ‘Something Better’. Between the deep passion, pain and desperation in the vocals, and lyrics such as ‘swimming in the deep end / tryna find my way back to you’, it is evident that you are listening to an individual drowning in their own thoughts. You can hear the fixation outgrowing the desire itself. Both the buildup, and slight lift in tempo on the final chorus I feel represents that tiresome exhaling sigh - the exhaustion of forever circling around your brain and achieving nothing.
My final song of choice is ‘You Matter to Me’ which incidentally is my personal favourite from the selection of tracks. Throughout this article, I have used words such as ‘catchy’ and ‘upbeat’ to illustrate the overall tone of this album. However, ‘You Matter to Me’ is a soft and beautiful ballad that not only places much more emphasis on the young artists singer/songwriter abilities, but also demonstrates just how varied he can be with his musical talents. Place Adele, Sam Smith and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man in a pot, give it a stir and this is the result. Lyrics including ‘Maybe I was chasing something that wasn't there’ paint a sorrowful but unerring portrayal of an individual acknowledging the bitter truth of their own reality. I also feel that it conveys a very important message about acceptance, and learning that the right thing isn’t always necessarily the good thing.
As I stated earlier, an album of this calibre could easily be broken down track by track. With that in mind, I would like to offer out some honorable mentions before I conclude this article. Such tracks include: ‘Amen’, ‘It Hurts’, ‘This is the Place’, ‘Love Has Different Ways to Say Goodbye’, and of course, the mischievous, but down to earth duet with Ella Henderson; the encore of the deluxe edition – ‘Lets Go Home Together’.
Overall, I think it is safe to say that I consider this a fantastic album. It might not be the most original piece of art to enter the charts in the last five years, but it’s still refreshing nonetheless. It’s consistent, yet varied, and has the ability to pack so much into just three quarters of an hour. With lyrics like ‘Jealousy ain't gonna make a man out of you’ ('It Hurts'), I would consider it to be the heart to heart we never knew we needed. A strong four out of five and an album that I can definitely listen to again and again.
If you'd like to find out more about Tom Grennan and keep up to date with his latest releases alongside 'Evering Road', the links to all his socials can be found below via the icons:
By Emma Furrier
Irish singer-songwriter Rory Gillanders returns with a new track ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ set to be released on April 9th as the first single from his upcoming third EP ‘Wilderness’.This folk-rock track follows suit to his signature style, and relates to many issues experienced in the modern world. Drawing inspiration from acts like Bob Dylan and Noel Gallagher, Gillanders’ maintains a modern folk sound with a clear and honest approach. Having grown up facing anxiety, his music chronicles tackling mental health in an unabashed and heartfelt way. ‘Eye Of A Hurricane’ is his first single release following his two EP’s, 'Tomorrow Means Nothin’' (2017) and 'Waiting' (2018), and is perhaps one of his most honest tracks to date.
The track begins with the melodious strumming of acoustic guitar that pays homage to his roots, and his opening lyric, “I want to blast out over the cosmos with you in my arms' creates a lush imagery that sets the tone for the track, as it then builds up in a staggering beat. While the song is an acoustic led track, the tempo quickly escalates with the entrance of a steady drum beat, creating an ever-growing pace that harnesses a deep energy. There is a noted similarity here to Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’ with its foot-stomping beat and heavy layering of sounds, while nodding towards the folk roots of story songs. While its influences are clear, Gillanders still explores his own narrative in songwriting, in a plaintive and meaningful way.
Honing in on his singer-songwriter roots, Gillanders stated of the track, “The song came to me in a dream. I was looking down at a hurricane causing all this destruction but I felt calm. I woke up and thought, there’s gotta be an idea for a song in this. I guess this song is about hope and trying to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles life throws at you”. Applicable to modern days, this track sings of hope and reassurance without hesitance. There are sonically many layers to it, which he approaches full-throttle. Comfortable in its folk-rock style, there is a live sounding quality to the track, full of crisp guitar and pounding drums atop a punchy chorus. There contains a steady buildup of energy in the structure of the song, as well as quality of the performance, reminiscent of the climax of adrenaline experienced during a live show. During these dark days of a gig-less lifestyle, this is a much-welcomed element to the track that brings listeners back into that live setting.
As Gillanders sings “And I’m tryna figure out just where I belong/ This world can drive you insane/ Trying to figure out just where I went wrong/ But I feel like I’m stuck in the eye of a hurricane” the gentleness of that sentiment is blanketed around a rock ‘n’ roll twang and full band sound, with echoing guitar hooks. The track then climaxes with Gillanders bellowing the song title lyrics on repeat, “I feel like I’m stuck in the eye of a hurricane”, accumulating into the likes of an acoustic-rock anthem. The thumping of percussion is met with the welcomed entrance of electric guitar, with harmonica layered atop the persistent sound. It builds up stronger until the track reaches its own climax, paralleling a raging hurricane, and dies down in a similar fashion. The song ends with the roaring of electric guitar halting to a final screech as the drum beat fades into the back, signaling the storm is passing, and then we are met with silence, similar to the quiet after a storm. In this single, Gillanders beautifully constructed his lyrics to flow with the music in a realistic and purposeful way, taking listeners on a journey along with him through the storm he dreamed up.
If you would like to find out more about Rory or keep up to date with his latest releases, including 'Eye of the Hurricane', then the links to all his socials can be found below via the icons:
By Edward Burnett
Australia has been the breeding ground of several great indie bands in recent years with the rapid emergence of Tame Impala and DMA'S just to name a few. Yet there is a new name to add to that list as Skegss, with their unique brand of surf-punk, are taking the indie-rock scene by storm. The band who originally formed in 2013 in Byron Bay consists of Ben Reed on vocals/guitar, Toby Cregan on bass and Jonny Lani on drums.
Following on from their 2018 debut album ‘My Own Mess’ which reached number 2 in the Australian charts, the boys are set to release their sophomore album next week on March 26th. Entitled ‘Rehearsal’, the thirteen song strong musical collection is a fresh blend of upbeat soft indie mixed expertly with with relaxing lyrics which all culminates in a genuinely authentic Australian surf/beach vibe. As there are indeed thirteen songs and this is supposed to be a brief and to the point article, I’m not going to go into detail on every one of them. I have however selected two which I think reflect the overall feel of the album and are real gems in their own right.
The first of the two is the band’s newest single ‘Valhalla’ which has already been released. The song is one of the heavier ones featured on ‘Rehearsal’ with a dominating, fast-paced guitar riff which runs thoroughly the whole song, never stopping to take a breath. This particular adrenaline rush is only enhanced by the introduction of a rapid drum beat which kicks in on the chorus. There is a confident boisterousness that reverberates through lead singer Ben Reed’s voice which demonstrates his vocal versatility from the calmer and more relaxed features on ‘Rehearsal’. The lyric structure is fairly simple on this particular track but that is by no means a negative as it allows for the tune to take centre stage in dictating the song’s feel and thematic direction.
The second song I have selected to analyse is the unreleased (as of yet) ‘Running From Nothing’. This is far calmer than the punky ‘Valhalla’ and carries more weight on the lyrical side of affairs hence why I’ve chosen these two songs to show a contrast that appears on ‘Rehearsal’. The song starts with the familiar message of doubt/self confidence which is a relatable topic for many listeners. This is shown in the opening lyric: “running from nothing so nothing can haunt me”. It is a mature topic to focus on rather than the all too overused themes of love or love loss which feature heavily in modern music. Skegss instead focus on self reflection in how usually the negatives we fear or overthink aren’t usually the real, rational or as bad as we think which causes us to indeed run from nothing. The softer, steady guitar track compliments the song as it allows the message to be fully taken in via the lyrics without the instruments taking full precedence.
Overall, Skegss’ upcoming sequel album ‘Rehearsal’ is a refreshing addition to the modern day indie-rock scene. The Australian outfit have given us a diverse album which genuinely fits as a soundtrack to most scenarios no matter the mood or occasion. This universality is certainly hard to come by in music these days and that alone is cause for praise. The boys many new based down under but if they quality of their music stays at this level, the only direction they’ll be heading is up to the top for sure.
If you would like to find out more about Skegss and keep up to date with the release of 'rehearsal" this week, the links to all their socials can be found via the icons below:
By Emily Duff
BAXTR are a London outfit creating Alternative Pop-Rock with a blend of dreamscape sounds. Released on the 12th of February, ‘Grace on Fire’ is the third single from BAXTR, following on from their last release ‘Feathers’ which dropped in September.
Consisting of three close friends, Floss Mackintosh (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Bash Powers (Guitar, backing vocals and keyboard), and Keiko Jackson (Drums and backing vocals). Having known each other for over a decade, the trio had always envisioned making music together and during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns finally got the chance to make that dream a reality.
Self-proclaimed nerds, BAXTR label their music as DIY Geek pop-rock in dreamspace, a very eclectic description. To me, listening to ‘Grace on Fire’ the band seem to be less ethereal and more experimental. Rather than having a synth element to their tracks that usually comes with this idea of dreamscapes and bubble pop, BAXTR seem to rather create a Paramore-esque sound with dramatic, almost ballad-like, female vocals over the top of juxtaposing rock guitar riffs.
Priding themselves on their kitsch, flamboyant sounds - the outfit bring both fun joy and a sense of female empowerment. With a sound eliciting a mixture of 80's pop and 90's rock bands, BAXTR manages to provide the New Wave Brit Pop bangers you never knew you needed.
Although their music comes across as rather simple and not far from the norm in comparison to their elaborate self-descriptions, the band’s enjoyment and passion for making music are very clear purely through the energy in the tracks.
With great feedback from the likes of BBC Radio One, even before its release, this track is due to be a summer anthem. Contrasting their last release, ‘Feathers’, ‘Grace On Fire’ is a much more lowkey sound. With use of more simple vocal rhythms, the track gives listeners a chance to focus on the instrumental accompaniment unlike ‘Feathers’ which focused on intense vocals with a heavy guitar in the foreground.
Always bringing positive vibes, while ‘Feathers’ fought the idea of self-acceptance, ‘Grace On Fire’ argues the point that people can’t be controlled or have their mind changed - both equally important messages. With lyrics explaining, “Every day I tell her that I love her”, and an acknowledgement that, “It’s not my place”, this track shows friendship at its finest form. Doing the most you can isn’t a guarantee they’ll do the right thing but nobody can be forced to go against their heart, even if they know it's wrong.
Despite being a new band, BAXTR are bringing a fresh energy that explodes with realism but manages to still remain positive - even the colourfulness of their artwork brings a cheerfulness.
If you would like to find out more about the BAXTR girls or keep up to date with their upcoming releases, the links to all their social medias are below via the icons:
By Emma Furrier
Mother Muerte is a California-based rock duo, comprised of lead singer Chelsea Salanoa and Jose Cadenas on drums and percussion. Originally hailing from San Francisco, they’ve now planted their roots in Vallejo, California, where they draw inspiration from its Mexican origins to incorporate into their unique, Latin blended sound. Having met approximately 8 years ago while each playing in separate bands, the duo began writing and playing together in 2015 and have since released two albums together under Mother Muerte.
Musically, both members bring different influences and sounds to the band. Growing up listening to genres such as metal and Latin, Jose incorporates this into his percussion style, while Chelsea brings in her love for 60s and 70s rock and folk music. With both of these contrasting influences known, it is evident in their sound that Mother Muerte integrates each spectrum of sound, while putting their own unique spin on their style. Classifying themselves as creating “mystical rock ballads infused with danceable Latin rhythms”, the band truly combines a variety of styles, which result in a haunting, compelling and instantly identifiable quality.
Their most recent release, ‘Mother Muerte (Demo)’, is a twelve-track album released on November 2, 2020. This album contains three singles, ‘Stranger’, ‘Restless’ and ‘Creature’, all of which put you under a trance with their psychedelic infused Latin rhythm. The album’s opening tack, ‘The Burden’ kicks off with the chiming of cymbals and simple chord progression, which then picks up and dives into a rhythmic, Latin-influenced rock ballad. Chelsea’s vocals pair perfectly with the drawl of guitar, holding a haunting quality that lingers with every lyric. The track quickly picks up its tempo, and a variety of Latin percussion instruments are heard joining in sync with one another in the background, while the guitar roars in a style reminiscent to 70s rock and roll. In the breakdown, Chelsea sings melancholically, “I will meet you once again/In my dreams or in my death/Crows of sorrow, guide me home/Mother Muerte rest my soul”. This song is the perfect opener to the album, as it introduces the band’s soul-stirring sound, while presenting their thematic approach to darker subjects of life, love, and loss.
The subsequent track, ‘Devil’s Interlude’ flows seamlessly into a slower rhythm, while complementing its preceding track perfectly. The insistent strum of guitar leads you into a trance, while the surrounding percussion picks up faster and faster, until it explodes in a palpitating Latin track that leaves you with the demanding urge to dance and sway. Conga drums tap out a high tempo, rhythmic flow that is layered under the demanding riffs of guitar. They flow perfectly together; each contouring into a progressive cadence that resembles a haunting melody in the likes of The Velvet Underground meets Santana.
Each track on this albums flows synchronically into the next, almost as if it is a continuation, or an afterthought expanded on in a variety of clever ways. Together, this builds into a thematic, moody piece of work that insists on being played in its entirety. The track ‘Smothered in a Dream’ falls into a swagger of guitar that resembles classic southern rock, a-la ZZ Top La Grange era, with a dirty, rock and roll essence. The foot-stomping breakdown of the song explodes into a roar of kick drums and bass while the lyrics “She promised me light at the end of the tunnel/Flowers at the base of my grave/ Love, and tears of affection/But she giveth and she taketh away/She taketh away” bring the song to a grand finale, shadowing its own subject. The next track ‘Restless’ follows in suit of its prior musical instrumentation, while adding the draw of conga or wood block sounds, integral in Latin production. Almost suddenly, the song picks up in speed, creating a sense of urgency, before dropping back down into a slower and steadier beat. The track takes us on a ride, up and down, ebbing and flowing in whichever way Mother Muerte wants us to go. There is a relentless beat to it that demands attention, while the vocals pour out over the track in a stirring echo. There is a deliberate measure here, and the track is laid out as if the band knows exactly where they want to take us, as the audience lays right in the palm of their hand. It is one the longest cuts on the album, coming in at 8:07 full of alternating inflections and expressive Latin rock.
Other tracks on the album such as ‘G.O.D. (Gift of Death)’, ‘Stranger’ and ‘Bed of Cempasuchil’ live in the same realm of Latin rock, while also adding elements of reggae, bolero, southern rock and roll, and alternative rock. The entirety of this album is thematic, and holds a haunting quality to it, reminiscent of a soundtrack to films such as Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk till Dawn’. With their steady build in tempo, heavy use of percussion and guitar, and lyrical focus on life, death and traditional Mexican elements, Mother Muerte establishes themselves as truly evocative Latin-fused rockers, while unequivocally stepping outside of the box. Unafraid to blend a variety of genres, they represent American rock in its purest form, taking traditional elements and building them into a larger-scale presumptuous blend of influences and style, that is uniquely and unabashedly their own.
If you would like to find out more about Mother Muerte and their latest releases as well as news, the links toothier socials can be found below via the appropriate icons:
By Edward Burnett
Those who are long term readers of Rock N Roll Reports will be very familiar with Brighton rock band YONAKA Who have been the focus of previous articles as well as a special exclusive interview back in November on the site. The band released a new single last week entitled ‘Seize the Power’ and naturally we just had to cover it. This isn’t your standard single though as it actually brings with it big change alongside the expected familiarity. To truly analyse this change, I am going to divide the single into three different themed categories of discussion. Firstly the musical style then the lyrics behind it and finally the unique use of tonal shift with colour’s role in enforcing this.
As promised, I am starting with the music and sound itself. Lead singer Theresa Jarvis is well known for her amazing vocal capabilities and these are unsurprisingly on show here again. However, here is where the first change lies as far as this single is concerned. There is far more presence of spoken word in this song than in any of YONAKA’s previous back catalogue of work. This change is needed though for the topic of the song as it allows Jarvis’ voice to come through as sermon-like, connecting with the listener on a deeper level with this direct approach. This is all the more important with when the theme of empowerment is considered which runs through the whole of ‘Seize the Power’. It is the resounding message of getting up and fighting again which will be spoken about more in the lyrics section but it is nevertheless vital to mention now as the two go hand in hand. The drums from Rob Mason start simplistically with a steady and slower beat than usual but soon build to a far more rhythmic pattern which compliments the single’s chorus and in total acts to ramp up the emotion behind Jarvis’ vocals.
Now onto the topic of this song and the lyrics which help convey it. ‘Seize the Power’ seems like a check up on yourself as a listener, especially your mental health. Like the title suggests, it is fully about seizing that power and empowering oneself to do what has been viewed as the impossible for too long. YONAKA encourage us to break through these self imposed barriers of doubt reminding us of the power we all have as individuals. This core message is undoubtedly influenced by the Covid pandemic and its depressing reverberations around the world with social distancing and lockdowns negatively affecting many people’s state of mind. Yet Jarvis states at the beginning that she “woke up this morning...looked in the mirror” and felt “different” as she had “finally made a decision”. Here she is empowered by making a positive step in the way of decisiveness, escaping those perils of doubt which have rendered many to be unmotivated to seize their life back during the pandemic. Following this, Jarvis opens it up to the listener asking “hey there, how you been?”. This is a question which essentially now more than ever we need to ask one another. Looking out for others and even simply asking if they’re okay is empirical. The key line which summarises this whole message to perfection is “as soon as you taste independence, you start living in the present”. As most of our lives have been on pause this past year, none of us have been living in the present but rather a limbo which we are only starting to come out of. Our independence has been somewhat removed with continuous lockdowns and curfews being enforced by governments globally in an attempt to tackle the spread. With all this in mind, that lyric resonates all the more powerfully knowing that’s we can start to live again. It is an undying message of hope as well as the mentioned welfare and empowerment.
Finally we come to arguably the most important change of all with this 2021 release, the tonal shift in colour. Previous YONAKA releases, including 2019’s debut album ‘Don’t Wait 'Til Tomorrow’, have predominantly featured red as the core colour of the artwork as well as the bands “Y” logo. I see this as reflecting the band’s music at the time with red often being used to show anger and therefore unhinged emotion. Such unhinged and raw emotion was always present in YONAKA’s previous songs showing the red to be an accurate thematic reflection on the music produced. However with ‘Seize the Power’ there has been a noticeable colour change from this familiar red to a tranquil blue. Even the band’s logo has embodied the new colour too. Make no mistake, this again is key to the current ethos and mood of YONAKA’s new song. Blue is a calmer colour which can be shown to represent more control rather than unhinged, raw emotion. This tonal shift is evident in the music as Jarvis is far calmer and composed via the spoken word throughout the song and that undying desperation has been replaced by an unwavering confidence, reflecting a gaining of control. Another way of saying gaining of control? Seizing the power.
Overall, this is an extremely brave and bold single to produce which is full of thematic as well as stylistic change, all while maintaining the brilliant core essence of YONAKA. This hopeful message of empowerment is exactly what both the rock music scene and the world in general needs given our drastic situation. It’s certainly worthwhile listening to YONAKA on this topic of seizing power as they are experts on doing so. With music as good as this to follow up on an already amazing debut album, the power is well and truly in their hands.
If you would like to keep up to date with the latest releases and news form YONAKA's camp, you can find the links to all their socials via the icons below: