2017 – 2018

Contact Music 

Live Review: Kasabian, Live at The 02 Kentish Town Forum 

The O2 Forum Kentish Town is tonight’s venue for the third and final London show as part of the Kasabian‘s intimate UK tour in preparation for the band’s 6th studio album ‘For Cryin Out Loud’, released on April 28. Opening with the track ‘Comeback Kid,’ one of twelve songs featured on the highly anticipated album, marks a gentle way to start what we all know will turn out to be a raucous Thursday night gig.

© Chloe Dobinson

Crowd pleasers ‘Bumblebee’, ‘Underdog’ and ‘Eez-Eh’ follow sending the sold out 2300 capacity venue into a frenzy. Frontman Tom Meighan and guitarist Sergio Pizzorno true friendship is demonstrated throughout the gig and their love for performing together is still very much evident.

New single ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ receives a warm welcome showcasing Kasabian are back where they belong with fans already singing along. The set takes a slower turn with guitarist Pizzorno taking to the centre stage with ‘La Fee Verte’ and ‘Treat’ which both show their appreciation for the singer songwriter.

An encore consisting of ‘Stevie’, ‘Vlad the Impaler’ (which saw a cameo appearance from comedian and new Bake Off star Noel Fielding) and ‘Fire’ left audiences members on a high chanting as they exited the North London venue.

Kasabian’s set list was 17 songs strong but their back catalogue is of such size and stature that it would’ve been easy for them to take it up to 20! No doubt their upcoming album will contain at least a few numbers that will join the ranks of their previous singles. One thing is for sure, their hits that include ‘Shoot the Runner’, ‘Club Foot’ and ‘L.S.F’ left fans (on this particular evening) wanting more.

★★★★

Read more of the live review on Contact Music.

Album Review: Shake off your Troubles, The Little Kicks

The 10 LP album has a versatile yet intriguing sound from Scottish four piece The Little Kicks. Opening track Theme is a 2 and a half minute instrumental track preparing listeners to take a journey full of genres and musical influences the band have adapted to make something of their own.

Sing About Something has infectious guitars, funky keys and high pitched falsetto vocals being reminiscent of indie electronica heroes Joy Division. It’s a slow yet memorable track with its hauntingly yet beautifully vocals. Don’t Get Mad, Get Even juxtaposes the previous track as it’s far more of a chilled, laid back song; it has light drums and soft guitars before leading into an upbeat chorus.

Let’s Get Lost Together is true alternative track on the EP album. Catchy hooks and light-hearted melodies make it a fun, innocent and poppy and has bags of radio playlist potential. While Bang The Drum Slowly is raucous and oozes confidence from the Aberdeenshire band having only formed in 2009, this a personal highlight of the record as it has eclectic keys and synths which demonstrate the band’s creativity.

You and Someone Like Me utinises a long intro which appeared to draw influence from the 80’s video games, the hollowed vocals of the frontman fits brilliantly together with hints of scuzzy guitars making it a great 1st single released from Shake Off Your Troubles.

Before We Were Friends marks the end of the album with soft distant strings. Overall, the album demonstrates The Little Kicks potential as a band not wanting to define their music by one genre. While there is versatility, the album can be hit and miss and often leaves listeners wanting something a little more punchy.

★★★

Live Review: Micky Flanagan live at Leicester Square Theatre (21st January 2017)

Micky Flanagan played a sold out 400 capacity venue at London’s Leicester Square Theatre in anticipation of his 2017 UK and Ireland tour An’ Another Fing.

Micky Flanagan (copyright:mickyflanagan.com)

Playing a colossal 13 dates in London alone, to nearly 250,000 people, Flanagan’s material mainly involved what he has been up to since taking a year off from the limelight including observing building sites, midday drinking and creating uneasiness amongst customers in corner shops.

Flanagan was one of the first comedians I had seen in 2012 playing a small and intimate show at 200 capacity Pleasance Theatre, since then he’s embarked on several tours and is one of the most recognisable comedians in the UK today.

Keeping topical, no subjects were left behind with brief mentions of the women’s march, Trump’s inauguration and celebrity deaths of 2016.

The Bethnal Green comedian interacted with members of the front row having a cabbie’s knowledge of the east end and relating to audience member’s various hometowns. Flanagan’s wife was mentioned heavily throughout the show often depicting her as a goddess throughout their 16 year marriage.

Since his last DVD (The Back In The Game Tour) the comedian jokily depicts of how he is ‘rolling in money’ since touring and how he can do whatever he wants now fame has come. Proving his ability to make absolutely anything funny, Flanagan managed to make a full 10 minute routine on BBC programme Eat Well for Less? which sees families across the UK reduce their food bills with help from Gregg Wallace – the comedian’s impression of Wallace is uncanny.

It’s clear to see that the 54 year old comedian is back at his best and able as ever to put audiences in continual fits of laughter during his 90 minute show.

★★★★

Read more about the comedy review on Contact Music

Culturefly 

10 albums to look forward to in 2018

Following on from Culturefly’s best of 2017 list, we take a look at some of the most anticipated rock, indie, electronic and hip-hop albums being released in 2018.

Fall Out Boy, Mania (19 January)

Kicking 2018 off in style, American band Fall Out Boy will release their seventh studio album Mania. Tracks ‘Young and Menace’ and ‘Champion’ have given a taster of what to expect from the rock four-piece, proving they’re still a great contender for one of the best rock bands around today.

Arctic Monkeys, TBA (Date TBA)

Good news Arctic Monkey fans! The band is back in the studio. Bad news, there’s no official confirmation but bassist Nick O’Malley has confirmed that the band are recording music. It will be their first release since 2013’s AM.

The 1975, Music For Cars (Date TBA)

Music for Cars is the upcoming album from Manchester rockers The 1975. Although there’s no official release date, it will be an EP album following their second studio release, the epically titled I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. The band have been teasing fans with Instagram audio clips of what to expect from the record.

Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending (9 February)

Scottish band Franz Ferdinand return with new studio album Always Ascending, as well as a new line-up since the departure of guitarist Nick McCarthy. Earlier this year the band released the title track and lead single, and you can expect to hear more music from their upcoming album when they play dates on their world tour.

Julian Casablancas & the Voidz, TBA (Date TBA)

Julian Casablancas’ side band is expected to release the follow up to their underrated debut album, Tyranny, at some point in 2018. Expect scuzzy guitar, electro synthesizers and distant vocals from Casablancas.

The Vaccines, TBA (Date TBA)

Let Me Take You Surfing in the Sky’ and ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ were both new tracks played by The Vaccines as part of their summer gigs. This new material has a punchy, energetic and catchy sound, with The Vaccines sticking to their trademark style, carrying on from their 2015 album English Graffiti. Hopefully we’ll hear more new songs when the band plays a small UK tour in April ’18.

MGMT, Little Dark Age (Date TBA)

Following a break after their third album in 2013, MGMT return with a darker, edgier sound. In October 2017 the American duo announced Little Dark Age as being the name of their forthcoming album and lead single. Expect the unexpected from this release, with tracks ‘When You Die’ and ‘Me & Michael’ having a more experimental sound.

The Prodigy, TBA (Date DTA)

No album title and no official release date has been announced from the iconic dance trio The Prodigy but here’s hoping for new material when they headline festivals We Are Electric and Festival Les Déferlantes Sud de France in the summer.

Major Lazer, Music is the Weapon (Date TBA)

Major Lazer’s long-awaited fourth studio album, Music is the Weapon, is another one with no official release date but the trio have confirmed collaborations with Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and Travis Scott. Keep your eyes and ears open for this.

Cardi B, TBA (Date TBA)

American rapper Cardi B will release her debut album at some point in 2018. The as yet unnamed, yet hotly anticipated record is certainly keeping fans waiting, but in the meantime you can listen to tracks ‘Bodak Yellow’ and ‘No Limit’.

Albums of 2017

This year I have contributed my two favourite albums to Culturefly’s best albums of 2017 feature. Here is what I chose:

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?

The third studio album from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds saw the frontman take a different approach, resulting in one of his best musical offerings yet. From the psychedelic and eerie instrumental opener ‘Fort Knox’ to the more poppy Vaccines inspired ‘Holy Mountains’ – this album introduced listeners to a softer, more subtle sound from Gallagher, taking away the hard persona fans have grown accustomed to. Who Built The Moon is Gallagher’s most ambitious solo record and it’s one that gets better with every listen.

Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud

Kasabian’s sixth album is a punchy, confident sound, delivering songs that range from raucous and arrogant – like opening track ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ – to the softer, more melancholy ‘You’re In Love with a Psycho’, which highlights guitarist Serge Pizzarno’s hypnotic guitar. However, it’s ‘Bless This Acid House’ that feels like a future indie anthem and radio favourite with its catchy chorus and harmonic melodies. For Crying Out Loud is the epitome of British rock music, marking a triumphant return from the Leicester born lads.

Album Review: Noel’s Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?

Who Built the Moon is the third release from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and it sees the band take a different direction with their sound, shaking off any Oasis similarities.

Fort Knox’ kick-starts the album with its instrumental intro and echoing vocals reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers’ 90’s track ‘Setting Sun’, which Gallagher had guest vocals on. The track’s heavy bass and punchy sound eases listeners into the 11-track album.

Released in early October, ‘Holy Mountain‘ was the first single taken from the album and it’s also the most surprising – and probably the least likely – track on the album that you’d associate with Gallagher. It’s a catchy, upbeat and poppy sound with influences from Bowie and The Vaccines to – dare I even mention – a hint of Ricky Martin.

Keep on Reaching’ and ‘She Taught Me How to Fly’ feel more like classic Gallagher songs, writing about love, hope and opportunities, whereas ‘It’s a Beautiful World’ is a subtle yet mesmeric track that lingers in the memory long after it’s finished playing. The soft sounds of the guitar with Gallagher’s distinctive voice are a particular album highlight, showing off what the singer-songwriter does best.

Bringing a little 60’s inspired flavour, ‘Black and White Sunshine’ feels more in tune with The Beatles era, with catchy melodies and slick tones. There’s plenty of variety and experimenting with different sounds here and it works a treat.

Who Built the Moon marks some of his best produced songs since Gallagher’s early Oasis days. It’ll keep long-time fans happy, whilst appealing to a new generation of listeners at the same time.

★★★★

Comedy Review: John Bishop, Winging It live at the 02 Arena 

Last night John Bishop played London’s O2 Arena for the first of two nights at the venue as part of his Winging It tour.

The comedian often opens with a video link and, true to form, Bishop started the show from a bathtub, admitting he was getting lazy with his tours due to old age – a key theme throughout the show. He also insisted on playing some ‘pop videos’ to get the massive crowd hyped up for the evening ahead.

Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’, Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and Robbie Williams ‘Let Me Entertain You’ all got the Bishop treatment, with the Liverpudlian starring in the iconic videos.

Taking to the stage, Bishop got the crowd going by reminding everyone it was a Thursday night in London and therefore the start of the weekend.

It’s been three years since the comedian’s Supersonic Tour and Bishop split the show into themes of what has happened to him over the last 18 months.

The first half of the show focused on age, with the comedian recently turning 50. He talked about noticing the changes in his body and the decisions he was making, while also comparing how different men are to women when getting old. The comedian made frequent references to his wife and friends comparing themselves to when they were younger; something all adults tend to do.

Bishop is unlike other comedians who write gags and take notes of things that they think would be funny. Instead, he takes key experiences that have happened to him recently and tests them out on smaller audiences. Most recently, Bishop tried them out on a small Scottish audience for a warm-up tour for Winging It.

His honesty in the show revealed a different side to the comedian, as he admitted he went through an ‘odd depression’ once his kids had left the nest. To fill the void, his wife, Melanie, took in rescued animals to which the comedian said she’d taken it too far. Horses, Shetland ponies, chickens and a hypochondriac pig brought Bishop back to his theme of age and getting older.

Overall, it was great to see Bishop back on stage and on top form. He’s still one of the greatest comics on the circuit today, telling personal stories and sharing experiences that the audience can relate too.

★★★★

Live Music Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 

Last night, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played London’s York Hall as part of an Apple Music documentary for his upcoming studio album Who Built The Moon. 

The gig was a balloted ticket system with only 1200 lucky fans given the opportunity to see the former Oasis member in such an intimate venue.

© Laurence Watson

Playing an hour-long set, Gallagher kicked off proceedings with leading single ‘Holy Mountain’ which is a fast-paced, vivacious track from the singer-songwriter. The frontman debuted three new tracks from the upcoming album including ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ and ‘Black & White Sunshine’, which have a subtler, more soulful sound compared to the two previous albums.

As well as playing new tracks, Gallagher also treated fans to Oasis classics including ‘Little By Little’, ‘Half The World Away’, a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Champagne Supernova’ and a faultless ‘Don’t look Back In Anger’, which the crowd sung every word to, overpowering the boxing club venue.

The memorable set ended with ‘In the Heat of the Moment’, ‘Riverman’ and ‘AKA..What a Life’, leaving the audience wanting more from Gallagher. It was particularly great – not to mention a novel experience – to attend a gig that had a no phone zone. Without the audience being able to catch every minute of the concert through a phone, attendees were able to enjoy the live event, living in the moment for a single night.

The exclusive documentary, entitled On the Record: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds — Who Built The Moon?, is due for release on Apple Music from November 24.

★★★★

Live Review: Camden Rocks Festival 2017

The one-day rock festival that is Camden Rocks took place over the weekend (3 June) and it was a momentous triumph, boasting a strong line-up of 250 bands that was arguably the best to date.

The festival – now in its sixth year, four of which we’ve been lucky enough to attend – certainly didn’t disappoint. Glorious sunshine, an eclectic line up and happy festival-goers made this year’s music event one to remember.

Once we’d collected our wristbands, we hopped next door to Underworld to catch four-piece band Turbowolf. I managed to see the band two years ago at Camden’s Barfly where frontman Chris Georgiadis captured the audience’s attention from the get-go with his enthusiastic performance. This year was no different.

The only bad thing about a festival that takes place across a single day is that there are inevitably line-up clashes. We therefore decided to cut Turbowolf’s set short and head over to KOKO, where one of our top five bands of the festival, Reverend and The Makers, were performing.

It was the band’s second time at the festival and they played plenty of tracks that fans wanted to hear including ‘Bassline’, ‘Open Your Window’ and ‘She Said She Loved Me’. The band’s distinctive frontman, Jon McClure, got audiences hyped for the following acts with attendees jumping, singing and bouncing along to the catchy tracks. A highlight of the gig was when the band played their 2007 track, ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’, which delivered a nice dose of nostalgia for anyone who’s been following the band for a while.

Reverend & the Makers ©Chloe Dobinson

Indie music fans were treated to a stellar KOKO line-up, which included not only Carl Barat & the Jackals and The Coral, but also Camden Rocks 2017 headliners, Feeder. Many people remember Merseyside band, The Coral, from the noughties but they’re still a great band. They played well-known tracks ‘In the Morning’ and ‘Pass it On’, with dedicated fans singing along to every word and getting the place warmed up for the most anticipated headline slot.

Welsh rockers Feeder took to the stage and lived up to their reputation as a brilliant live band, opening up with ‘Universe of Life’. The set mainly featured their earlier material (which nobody seemed to be complaining about about) and saw the band play as if it was their last ever performance. As expected, ‘Buck Rogers’ got the biggest reaction, with over-excited audience members throwing cups and singing at the top of their lungs.

Like previous years, Camden Rocks Festival 2017 was a huge success and delivered something for everyone. Until next year fellow rockers!

Read more of the article on Culturefly

Live Review: Charlie Baker’s Cabaret Boulangerie at The Other Palace Review

Following a successful string of shows, Charlie Baker’s Cabaret Boulangerie returned to London’s The Other Palace theatre on the 23 May, 2017.

Boasting a roster that includes an array of comedians, magicians and musicians, the show offered something for everyone and was headlined by quick-fire pun comic Tim Vine.

Starting off proceedings was comedian Tom Allen, who was a last minute addition to the line-up replacing Angela Barns. Allen was a great replacement act, opening the show with a discussion on how his accent is often misrepresented and the challenges of passing his driving test. Allen’s charm and quick wit had audiences in fits of laughter, getting them warmed up for the 2 hour spectacular of a show.

Next up was British comedy magician John Archer, whose tricks and rib-tickling stories entertained the 120-capacity crowd.

A highlight of the evening was guitarist Deirdre Cartwright, who performed two songs – one with a jazz influence and a cover version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ – before returning to the stage with musical theatre performer Gabrielle Brooks (who’s appeared in West End shows The Book of Mormon and I Can’t Sing). After a couple of songs, Brooks revealed to the audience that there’s a new Tina Turner musical in the pipeline, which she auditioned for, before perfecting a cover version of ‘Proud Mary’.

The second half of the night saw award-winning comedian Nathan Caton take to the stage. Having seen the laidback and charming comedian perform a few year’s ago at a tiny Northern London theatre alongside Romesh Ranganathan, it was great to see him tackle a bigger event, discussing how his life has matured since moving out his parent’s house.

At the end of the night, Tim Vine performed his fast paced one-liners to the audience who were left in hysterics as the comedian packed a punch with his constant stream of quick-witted jokes. The extravaganza saw the comic do his reputable ‘pen behind the ear’ routine, which pretty much does what it is says in the title.

The night was a huge success with MC Charlie Baker guiding the audience through the cabaret line-up, delivering an unforgettable evening of entertainment.

★★★★

Camden Rocks 2017: 5 acts to check out at this year’s festival

This year’s Camden Rocks Festival is set to be the biggest and best yet, with over 250 bands performing across 25 venues on Saturday 3 June.

It will be Cuturefly’s fourth appearance at the festival which features headline slots from the likes of Feeder, The Coral, The Damned and The Rifles.

The festival will see established and up-and-coming acts, both home-grown and international, play at the iconic all-day event, which is renowned as one of the best rock festivals in the UK.

Here are our top 5 acts to check out from the mammoth line-up.

Reverend And The Makers

Reverend And The Makers are expected to make a triumphant return to Camden Rocks this year. The Sheffield band last played Proud at the festival in 2014, which saw them deliver an energetic performance to the packed out crowd. Frontman Jon McClure brings terrific showmanship to the stage, getting the crowd involved with their performances. This is a band we’re truly looking forward to seeing at the festival and you should be too.

Feeder

Headlining this year’s summer festivities are rock band Feeder, who bring their Welsh charm to the legendary festival. The band are fantastic live and fans will be expecting to hear some of their most popular tracks on the day, such as ‘Buck Rogers’, ‘Just a Day’ and ‘Feeling A Moment’. The festival appearance follows their ninth studio album, All Bright Electric, which was released at the end of last year, and they’re sure to get everyone into a frenzy with their superb back catalogue of alt-rock hits.

The Coral

Another great addition to this year’s line-up is English band The Coral. Having emerged with their breakout self-titled debut in the early noughties, they’ve since released a further seven studio albums, with their latest, Distance Inbetween, proving that they still have plenty to offer fans new and old. Expect a big crowd for the Merseyside rockers.

The King Blues

The King Blues are a punk rock band hailing from London with influences including The Clash, The Specials and Public Enemy. Their sound is described as “rebel street music” by lead singer Jonny “Itch” Fox, so this should be one of the most fun gigs on the Camden Rocks line-up.

Orange Goblin

Orange Goblin will be bringing their heavy metal talent to the festival. They released their debut album in 1997 and since then have released seven more albums, the last back in 2014. This is the type of band that Camden Rocks is all about and if you get to see them live, you’re in for a treat.

Click here for more information on Camden Rocks.

Album Review: For All Ours Sins, Sounds of the Sirens

For All Our Sins is the engaging and upbeat debut album from female acoustic-pop duo Sounds of the Sirens.

Album opener ‘Smokescreen’ is a captivating track that grabs the listener’s attention from the get go, before leading into the soft acoustic sounds of ‘Mr Wilson’. The beautiful, subtle vocals against a melancholy backing provide the perfect track to listen to on a chilled-out Sunday afternoon.

Together Alone’ and ‘In This Time’ are passionate, foot stomping songs, which bring a vibrancy and energy to the 11 track album. With tracks like these, it’s hardly surprising that the duo have received high-raise from the likes of Chris Evans, who invited them to perform alongside U2 and Take That on TFI Friday last year.

The album’s seventh track, ‘Cross Our Hearts’ lowers the tone, allowing Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood’s voices to really shine. Its heartfelt lyrics make this track the true highlight of the album, demonstrating the Exeter two-piece’s great potential in the folk scene.

Given that it’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, ‘The Voices’ seems particularly pertinent, as it supports the #itaffectsme campaign which the duo are advocating as both musicians and teachers to the younger generation.

Following the release of their new album, Sounds of the Sirens are embarking on a small UK tour in May and June, as well as playing at festivals including Oceanfest, Jimmy’s Festival and their biggest show to date at Glastonbury.

For All Our Sins is a debut album to listen to on a sunny afternoon and one you can easily immerse yourself in. It’s out now via DMF Records.

★★★

Read more of the album review on Culturefly

2018

Culturefly

Best Albums of 2018

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of Privacy is the debut album by American rapper Cardi B. Opening with the explosive ‘Get Up 10‘, the 13 track record has a plethora of artists collaborating on it including Chance the Rapper, Bad Bunny, Kehlani and the brilliant Migos, who features on ‘Drip‘. The album goes through a narrative of highs and lows, with Cardi B making sure her voice is heard loud and clear. With its honest lyrics and hip-hop beats, ‘Bodak Yellow‘ is one of the many highlights on the album. If this is the kind of debut Cardi B delivers, we should expect even bigger and better things from album number two.

Lily Allen – No Shame

Mercury Prize nominee Lily Allen’s fourth studio album is a force to be reckoned with. The in-your-face lyrics and catchy melodies of ‘Come On Then‘ showcase the singer-songwriter back on top form. Blending pop with electro, dance and reggae, every song on the fourteen track album offers something different, with ‘Lost My Mind‘ and ‘Apples‘ particularly demonstrating Allen’s writing capability and lyrical honesty as she discusses themes of divorce, parental guilt and being in the public eye.

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Arctic Monkeys’ sixth album has divided fans and critics alike. And whilst it’s a definite musical change from the Sheffield band, it’s also a welcome one, with casual opener ‘Star Treatment‘ slowly easing listeners into the laid-back album. A common theme throughout the record is science fiction and there are noticeably darker notes here than on previous albums. The band have dubbed Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino as “lounge-pop” and with the smooth vocals from frontman Alex Turner and memorable melodies, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s earned them their third Mercury Music Prize nomination.

Album Review: Louise Goffin – All These Hellos

Today marks the release of Grammy-nominated artist Louise Goffin’s ninth studio album, All These Hellos.

The record gets off to a leisurely start with ‘Paris France’, a heart-warming song featuring singer-songwriter-musician Chris Difford. The pair duet perfectly to a catchy melody before the album moves on to ‘The Last Time I Saw My Sister’, which takes a more melancholy tone. The track is initially subtle with soft guitars and Goffin’s breathy vocals, building up to a punchy chorus with a theatrical orchestra background and thunderous drums.https://youtu.be/JzdIHjTU5YU

Chinatown’ features yet more orchestral music and it has a magical feel as if it’s the opening to an animated film. This is the second of four duets on the album, with Rufus Wainwright lending his gravelly vocals to the song.

Billy Harvey features on ‘Turn To Gold’ and the album’s title track, which both have a 70’s inspired sound, taking listeners back to Goffin’s 1979 debut, Kid Blue.

The highlight of the album comes towards the end with the chipper ‘Good Times Call’. It’s the most upbeat track on All These Hellos and you can’t help but smile whilst listening to it.

All These Hellos is alluring music with jazz, blues and chilled out California rock influences. Goffin has mastered the art of songwriting, crafting an album of multi-layered, melodious songs with expert production. It’s exactly the kind of accomplished record you’d expect from the daughter of iconic duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

★★★★

Album Review: Paul Smith – Diagrams

Diagrams is the fourth solo studio album from Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith.

Kicking off the eleven track album is ‘The Public Eye’, a catchy song with a darker undertone, which makes perfect sense given it was written with the British Home Office’s “Hostile Environment” policy in mind.

This emotive, storytelling approach, influenced by real life and the world around us, continues with ‘Around and Around’ – about the never-ending news cycle – and ‘Lake Burley Griffin’, a song inspired by an American who designed Canberra alongside his wife. They’re slower, heavier songs from the normally chirpy singer-songwriter, perfectly displaying Smith’s evolving style.

Silver Rabbit‘ is a frantic, short but sweet two-minute track, taking listeners back to the days of Maximo Park’s ‘Our Velocity‘ and ‘Apply Some Pressure‘. The album ventures back to more sombre territory with ‘The Beauty Contest‘, before ‘Critical Mass‘ takes listeners down a grungier road.

Fans of Smith’s more joyous songs might find Diagrams lacking, but it’s certainly the type of music you’d be willing to wait around for at a festival, just for the opportunity to hear it played live.

★★★

It’s clear from the very first song that Johnny Borrell and co can still deliver an instant earworm. The twelve track album opens with the joyous ‘Got To Let The Good Times Back Into Your Life’, which is reminiscent of the four-piece band during their mid-noughties heyday. The lyrics are fast-paced, the melodies are catchy and it’s sure to be welcomed with open arms from long-time fans. Razorlight has always been a band who can bring an infectious sound to both their recorded songs an live shows, with ‘Razorchild’, ‘Brighton Pier’ and ‘Good Night’ all having that fun and energetic summer festival feel.
‘Iceman’ and album closer ‘City of Women’ continue to show the London band’s versatility, revealing a slower, sing-along approach. It’s songs like these that remind us why we fell in love with Razorlight in the first place. 
They might have been away for over a decade, but it feels like just yesterday that the band was releasing their self-titled debut – an album that received rave reviews and made Razorlight one of the most recognised indie bands around. Olympus Sleeping continues that success, demonstrating the band on top form and promising an uplifting dose of noughties nostalgia.

★★★★

Album Review: Arkells – Rally Cry

Following a relentless tour schedule earlier this year, which saw them support folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner and perform at US festival Coachella, Canadian five-piece Arkells have released their highly anticipated new album, Rally Cry.

The 10-track record opens with ‘Hand Me Downs’ – a slow burner of a song with light drums, keyboards and echoey vocals from guitarist-frontman Max Kerman.

It moves swiftly on to ‘American Screams’, treating listeners to a funky, synthesizer-driven track that sounds like something straight out of the 80’s. It’s a fun, upbeat and poppy sound, a clear highlight from an album that has many.

Relentless’, ‘Saturday Night’ and the politically-charged ‘People’s Champ’ are lively, energetic songs, the type Arkells excel at. These tracks take the sound of the band’s live shows and marry them with their studio sound – providing a different listening experience to their previous offering.

The album swings towards a slower, lighter tone, before ending on a scuzzy rock sound with final track ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’, which is audibly influenced by fellow rockers Cage the Elephant.

Rally Cry is a confident record from Arkells, pushing their sound in a bold new direction that demands to be heard and refuses to be forgotten.

★★★★

Album Review: The Milk Carton Kids – All The Things That I Did and All The Things That I Didn’t Do

Americana folk band The Milk Carton Kids have returned with their fourth album, All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do – an epic (both in title and sound) 12 track record that’s equal parts melancholy and charming.

Opening with ‘Just Look At Us Now’, the Grammy Award nominated duo start slow and warming, with soft acoustic guitars and heartfelt lyrics soothing listeners’ ears, before segueing into the evocative and nostalgic ‘Nothing is Real’.

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale’s simple cords and laidback country crooning are displayed perfectly in ‘Younger Years’, ‘Blindness’ and ‘You Break My Heart’, whilst ‘One More For The Road’, a colossal 10 minute 23 second long centrepiece, demonstrates the duo’s sublime synchronicity and harmonic vocals.

This is the band at its most diverse, building on the acoustic foundations they’re known for and adding more subtle layers to their music. It’s still sombre, bittersweet stuff – which can border on a little too meditative if you’re listening to the album in one sitting – but the instrumentation adds greater depth to the album as a whole.

The Milk Carton Kids have undergone some major changes – both musical and personal – since their last release in 2015, Monterey, and this album reflects those events. In Kenneth Pattengale’s own words: “We had been going around the country yet another time to do the duo show, going to the places we’d been before. There arose some sort of need for change.”

Change, as we all know, can be a liberating thing and it certainly was for The Milk Carton Kids, who’ve delivered a reflective album with a “bigger sonic palette”, asserting themselves as one of the most accomplished Americana bands on the contemporary folk scene.

★★★

Album Review: Dancehall, The Band

Recorded over two years, The Band is the 10 track debut album from London/Kent based garage-rock trio Dancehall.

The album opens with ‘KO’, a slick guitar intro instantly giving way to thunderous drums and an almost frenetic verve that ensures anyone listening is sitting up and paying attention to the music.

Debut single ‘Vs & Gs’ has the same raw energy and passion, simultaneously demonstrating the band’s feverous drive and rejection of the norm, as well as their musical influences of Sonic Youth and Fugazi.

Digging’ and ‘Droners’ both have that 90’s inspired punk vibe with a melancholy, hollowed-out sound and fuzzy vocals from frontman and bassist Timothy V.

The second half of the album provides something of a respite, taking a less heavy and frantic approach with ‘Burn’, ‘Virgin’ and ‘Salt’. In these tracks the trio are able to relax into themselves, letting their songs freewheel away from the sharp angular turns of the rest of the record.

With this self-released album, Dancehall leave a lasting impression. Considering the trio only formed two years ago, The Band is a solid debut that rollicks along with an energy that will make listeners yearn to see them live.

The Band is out now via Vibe/Anti-Vibe

★★★

Theatre Review: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Having opened at London’s Aldwych Theatre back in April, Tina is an energetic jukebox musical that celebrates the life and music of the legend that is Tina Turner (played here by American performer Adrienne Warren)

It starts by taking the audience back to the singer’s humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee where Tina – born Anna Mae Bullock – meets her soon to be husband, Ike Turner, at one of his concerts.

Anna Mae gets brought up onto the stage and, though she’s young, her vocals are powerful and sublime. Ike notices her talent and asks her mother’s permission to take her on tour with him as a featured singer for Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm.

When recording songs, Ike and the producers thought it would sell more records if Anna Mae changed her name so that people believed the pair were married. Anna Mae was already in a relationship but she went along with it to help the record achieve greater success.

Tina Turner the Musical shares the story of how turbulent Ike and Tina’s relationship was, with Ike’s fiery temper leaving band members and Tina herself unable to stand up to him.

The narrative switches seamlessly between stage and private life, with Tina having two children (one with Raymond Hill, the band’s saxophonist, with whom she was in a relationship with, and another with Ike).

All the old Tina favourites are featured including It’s Gonna Work Out FineA Fool in Love and River Deep Mountain High, which Warren performs with pitch-perfect precision.

The second half of the show sees Tina trying to make it as a solo performer and desperately trying to earn money to make ends meet.

She takes a risk and flies to London where she has a few weeks to record an album with a more rock sound. Met with pushbacks, Tina shows her drive and determination to make it as a singer without the help from her now ex-husband Ike.

The show ends with an encore of Tina’s most successful songs to date, treating audience members to The Best, as well as a reprise of Nutbush City Limits and Proud Mary, which sees the audience on their feet and singing along to the iconic tracks.

Overall, The Tina Turner Musical is a great success, with the vocals, story and tracks taking theatregoers through an emotional rollercoaster of how Tina became the success she is today.

★★★★

Album Review: The Get Up Kids, Kicker EP

It’s been seven years since The Get Up Kids’ released their fifth studio album, There Are Rules (2011), and now the American rockers are back with Kicker, a four-song EP released via Big Scary Monsters.

With its thunderous drums and heavy guitars, opening track and lead single ‘Maybe‘ throws listeners back into the band’s alt-rock sound. There’s no mistaking that this is The Get Up Kids, but it feels more grown-up, reflecting the fact that the band members are no longer twenty-year-olds. They’re seasoned performers in their forties and it lends the EP a new level of maturity without losing any of that punk-rock edge.

Catchy choruses, punchy lyrics and frontman Matt Pryor’s resonating vocals continue into second track ‘Better This Way‘, whilst third track ‘I’m Sorry‘ offers a synthesizer opening that explodes into fast guitars and solid drums. It’s reminiscent of The Get Up Kids’ earlier albums, bringing to mind other nineties/noughties punk rock bands like Blink 182 and Green Day.

The EP closes on an anthemic note with ‘My Own Reflection‘, a more down-tempo track with heartfelt vocals, which lingers as the record’s highlight and shows a band that’s come full circle.

Jim Suptic, guitarist and vocalist of the group, spoke about the EP’s concept, saying: “You always look back in rose colored glasses, and I always remember when this band was really struggling and we were selling our CD collections to pay our rent and that sucked at the time, but looking back that was an amazing time, that was so much fun. There was no pressure or anything,”

Kicker comes as the band have signed a record deal with Polyvinyl and are set to release a full-length album (date TBC). They’re also due to embark on a mammoth US tour in support of the EP.

★★★★

Live Review: The Rolling Stones live at the London Stadium

The Rolling Stones played the first London date of their No Filter tour last night (22 May) to a sold-out crowd.

Taking to the stage with opening track a ‘Street Fighting Man’, it was a joyous, energetic song to kick off the two-hour show.

It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)’, ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Paint It Black’ followed, with audience members mesmerised by Jagger’s stage persona and snake hips, which he’s mastered over the course of the band’s career.

Before the show fans could take to social media to decide what track The Stones should play, with ‘Under My Thumb’ ultimately being chosen. It was great to hear an early Stones song, which was released in 1966 and appeared on their Aftermath album.

The band performed a number of slower songs, with ‘Fool To Cry’ and ‘Can’t Always Get What You Want’ having the 88,000 crowd singing along to every word as the sun went down over the Olympic Park.

As Jagger disappeared for a costume change, guitarist Keith Richards took to the front of the stage and performed ‘Before They Make Me Run’ and ‘Slipping Away’. Even though the band have been performing for more than 50 years, Richards still seemed shy and nervous taking the lead role for both songs.

As Jagger returned the band performed more from their back catalogue with fan favourite ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, along with ‘Miss You’ and ‘Midnight Rambler’.

The stage featured pyro flickers, a runway into the crowd for the special ‘golden circle’ ticket holders, and colossal screens of the band either side of the stage.

A Stones’ gig wouldn’t be complete without ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, which saw Jagger run up and down the runaway, putting people half the 74-year-old’s age to shame.

The two-song encore of ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Satisfaction’ brought the 19 track setlist to an end, with the band proving they still have the energy and popularity that they started out with all those years ago.

★★★★★

Live Review: Liam Gallagher live at the London Stadium

Liam Gallagher was the first act to support The Rolling Stones on their No Filter UK tour.

Taking place at the London Stadium last night (22 May), it was the former-Oasis frontman’s first UK show after a month of touring and promotion in the US in support of his debut solo album, As You Were.

Taking to the stage in true charismatic style, the singer opened with Oasis track ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ which got the crowd into a wild frenzy.

The 45-year-old played tracks from his recent number one album including singles ‘Wall of Glass’, ‘Greedy Soul’ and ’You Better Run’, which received a warm welcome in anticipation for the main act The Stones.

Morning Glory’ had audience members singing along in the sunshine to the iconic sound of the 90’s.

The singer also performed ‘Some Might Say’ and ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, which featured former Oasis member Bonehead.

The set closed on the acoustic ’Live Forever’ – an emotional tribute to mark the one year anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack.

Before playing the song, Liam told the audience: “This is for everyone in Manchester. Sing along if you know the words.”

The frontman only played a short setlist of eight songs but packed a punch to help support one of the most successful bands the UK has ever produced.

★★★★

Live Review: Manic Street Preachers live at Wembley Arena 

The legendary Manic Street Preachers played Wembley Arena on Friday night (4 May) as part of the UK tour for their thirteenth studio album, Resistance is Futile.

Widely known as the Manics, the band played to a strong 10,000 crowd, opening their set with ‘International Blue’ – a bold, energetic, kickstarter of a song, before leading into ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’.

Having seen the Manics play live nearly a decade ago, when they headlined The 02 Arena and played the NME Awards Tour while receiving their Godlike Genius award, it was great to see the band still have that same energy and drive.

A highlight of the set was when the Welsh rock band performed their 2007 track ‘Your Love Alone is Not Enough’ with accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist and songwriter The Anchoress.

The trio – who formed in 1986 – played an assortment of their most popular anthems, including ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’, ‘The Masses Against The Classes’ and ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, as well as covers of Frankie Valli’s ‘Cant Take My Eyes Off You’ and the Sex Pistols classic ‘No Feelings’.

They closed their 24 song setlist with ‘A Design For Life’, a momentous song that seemed to strike a chord with many people at the gig, who sung the lyrics back to frontman Bradfield word for word.

The Manic’s Wembley gig demonstrated that they’re not just 90’s rockers rehashing their back catalogue. With poetic songwriting and energetic live shows, this is a band that’s still going strong over thirty years later and will be for years to come too.

★★★★

Album Review: Be More Kind, Frank Turner

Be More Kind is the seventh studio album from British folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner.

The thirteen-track album gets off to a strong start with opener ‘Don’t Worry‘, before going into a slow, harmonic chorus. It’s the sort of quality music we’ve come to expect from Turner but with a slightly different approach.

Next up is ‘1933‘ – an upbeat and catchy track that’s the perfect song to get any festival crowd going. It was also the first single released from the album earlier this year, marking the Hampshire born singer’s return.

Turner has said the main influences on the album include Soft Cell, New Order and The Cure, with ‘Little Changes’, ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘There She Is’ demonstrating a new musical direction for him. Its lighter tones, melancholic choruses and prominent synthesizers also mark a departure from his former projects.

Yet the highlight of the album is ‘21st Century Survival Blues’, which has an indie inspired feel with its catchy guitars, thunderous drums and distinctive vocals.

“I wanted to try and get out of my comfort zone and do something different”, Turner said, and he’s achieved that with Be More Kind, which feels like a perfectly timed release that still retains that summery, festival feel.

The album is out on 4 May through Xtra Mile Recordings.

★★★