What more can be said about Nottingham’s rap god? Upon each release, his music seems to mature like a fine wine, drifting through mind and consciousness with a heavy dose of lyrical astuteness that flows like the calm yet rigorous waves of the ocean. This latest venture is possibly his most challenging and delicate piece of work yet, with the wordsmith tackling the heavy yet important issue of mental health. Right from the off, Scorz hooks us with that deadly addictive voice on Illa Thoughtz, complemented by a sedative guitar riff straight out of Creedence Clearwater Revival nostalgia. “The bipolar, Ayatollah, Arizona, wilder loner, Jonah Lomu, clothes line you in a coma” – this type of vicious wordplay is exactly what puts Scorz above the rest, serving up a concoction of pop culture references with a bitter taste of realness. In this case, it’s mental wellbeing, a topic that most rappers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole despite the need to speak out. Illa Soul and Illa World follow the same literal theme, breaking down the barrier between listener and artist in such an emotive and progressive manner that it’s hard not to get sentimental. That airy, crunchy production is beautifully consistent throughout, capturing that rough 12-bit analogue sound that’s almost become extinct within hip hop. The final track Illa Sigmund is a blend of soulful disco that glosses over the ears so gracefully in conjunction with the wonderfully upbeat and positive words of the main man (and also Robin Williams samples). He’s k-ill-ed it, yet again. Jack Garofalo
Clay Shaped Boy
Social Convenience Vol 1
Popping this EP on for the first time, you could easily be fooled into thinking you’re listening to a four-piece band. In fact, it’s one very talented lad from Nottingham with a very infectious voice. With his latest release, Dog is Dead’s former stick man has created a fresh sound that mixes electronic, indie and pop; the sort of thing that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Made in Chelsea advert. From the lead single, Atlas, through to the final track, Modern Age, Social Convenience showcases Clay Shaped Boy’s unique, modern and anthemic pop songwriting. Mixing it up on every track, and with a young and fresh vibe, his musical maturity still manages to ooze through. However, the most impressive aspect of this EP is that every track leaves you wanting more. This is Volume 1; bring on Volume 2. Hannah Parker
As anyone with a passing knowledge of the Copenhagen Interpretation will know, Schrödinger's infamous cat is simultaneously both dead and alive. Judging from their Facebook profile, Damn Craters are no strangers to quantum superposition themselves, “Duke Ellington once said ‘There are two kinds of music – the good and the bad’. We are neither and we are both, it’s all subjective.” Perhaps they subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, but I rather think they’re just being modest. There may only be three songs coming in at a collective seventeen minutes of music on this EP, but it’s more than enough to put forward a pretty compelling case that this particular cat is very much alive. Sounding like a glorious union of Soundgarden, Black Sabbath and Eddie Vedder at his most agitated. If Fighting in the Caves of Drach doesn’t wake you up, then I think perhaps you might be dead, observed or otherwise. Tim Sorrell
7” (Vetala Productions)
Vinyl doesn’t get much blacker than this: seven inches of glorious Nottingham doom and gloom ready to be thrust into the ears of anyone who dares listen. Dark Mother’s Giving Tree is relentless in its brutalist stomp. The two piece revel in making wild and cacophonic noise – a heavily layered grinding riff marches on to oblivion alongside the thunderous cymbal crash of the drums, on top of which vocalist/guitarist Holly howls into the sludgy storm as if possessed by wild demons. Whatever spell they’ve just conjured, it’s worked, as I wish that more songs were like this. A quick burst of feedback and Shrykull take this split release deeper into the void. The Black Moon is a real brain mangler of detuned guitars and growled vocals. This is some heavy and dirty stuff, but within the murk, Shrykull find a groove and ride it out with obvious relish. Paul Klotschkow
Usually found fronting noisy emo types Little Bribes, George Gadd dials down the fuzz and goes it alone on this introspective yet punchy collection of songs. Listening to Better Shape, it doesn’t come as a shock that the musician has name-checked the likes of Frank Carter and Bruce Springsteen as songwriting inspirations, as there is a kind of earthy sincerity woven throughout these five songs. Milhouse, driven by a nagging guitar line, sees Gadd singing “I’m running on empty calories and table scraps/Room temperature beer in between naps”. In keeping with the homespun and intimate feel of this EP, Runaway is fleshed out with some lo-fi synth flourishes, while Ellie Keegan guests to add some harmonies on the anthemic chorus. Pointing towards another obvious influence, the intimate Sycamore has something of the Death Cab For Cutie about it, a mix of subtle electronics and bittersweet guitar. Paul Klotschkow
One Giant Causeway
With so many indie rock bands knocking about, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. This is one of those brilliant rare moments. One Giant Causeway may be predominantly modern rock, but they also throw it back to the now almost-retro nineties. Not unlike Oasis or Blur, there’s a unique voice on top of some gifted musicians, with songwriting that keeps your ears pricked from the very start to the very end. Tracks such as Last Night showcase the band’s ability to create more upbeat, heavy music. However, on the likes of Lost they prove their versatility with a slower, melodic vibe. The EP keeps giving, offering you something new with every beat and refusing to let you turn off. Listening to this, you get the feeling that they’d be at home at both Glastonbury and Download. Bands like this simply aren’t easy to come by. Hannah Parker
Four-piece Slumb Party release their debut EP and it’s full of dark, dirty post-punk tracks. Opener Factory wouldn’t have sounded out of place next to Joy Division on the legendary A Factory Sample. However, unlike Joy Division, Slumb Party seem to have arrived fully formed, their sound perfectly defined and with more confidence than you usually find in such a recently new band. Second track, Marks On Your Soul, keeps the emotional Ian Curtis-esque vocals but has a sexier swagger with the guitar of Phil Booth-Mo recalling Bernard Butler from the early Suede records. There are also elements of Gang of Four in the angular guitar on final track You’re Not The First. A Silver Pyramid gives each member a showcase, with harmonies from drummer Jess and a little bass solo as the song brilliantly collapses in on itself before resolving – “you’re at your limit, so stressed again”. Indeed. Gav Squires
We’ve got a knack in the Midlands for producing some of the world’s leading indie and rock performers. Think Kasabian, Electric Light Orchestra and local lad Jake Bugg. Now Vega Bay are sliding into that list with debut EP What Remains. The release, consisting of songs What Remains, Drench, Exhaust, Badmash and Sometimes It Rains, follows a pretty classic indie tone that’s becoming more popular. The steady drums and inventive guitar playing create a really engaging product. Vocals from Sam Poyzer are confident and unique. The four-piece outfit have definitely found a style that suits them, full of catchy choruses and the perfect compromise between messy and controlled sounds. I can imagine it making great concert music, easy to sing along to and energetic enough to jump around to. Whether the track is slow and thoughtful or high energy, Vega Bay keep a consistent style throughout. Elizabeth O’Riordan
A wonderful collection of mellow, dreamy tunes, Nottingjam is the latest EP from What’s Mahmood that acts as the perfect continuation of the group’s stripped back and deeply personal sound. Much like their previous EPs, Nottingjam focuses on raw vocals that are accentuated by subtle instrumentals, creating a wonderful lazy afternoon feeling. Tracks like C U feel so ambient that they border on being lullabies, while closing track Sorry That I Didn’t Stay puts fuzzy guitars centre stage to give the collection a necessary final kick. Van Goghian Stars proves to be the pick of the bunch however, upping the tempo of the EP with drunken backing vocals that allow the lyrics to keep centre stage. Forget what’s going on in the world of politics, and give yourself a soothing high by checking out this EP. George Ellis
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