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Music Reviews: June 2015

9 June 15 words: Music Reviews
With Scorzayzee, Ady Suleiman, Alright The Captain, Blind Thieves, The Death Notes, Dearest, Felix M-B, Johnny and the Raindrops, and The Jonathan Curtis Eclectic Band
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Aeon: Peace to the Puzzle
Album (Gangsta Music)

In 1995, a young Scorzayzee had his first track played on Tim Westwood’s show while the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Bada$$ were still pooing their keks and living on a diet of mushed up veg. Fast forward twenty years and that tyro emcee turned rap parvenu finally releases his long-awaited debut LP, funded by Kickstarter. This isn’t just ‘one for the fans’ though; it’s a whopping 28 track opus. With a twenty-year gestation period, it’s naturally retrospective in focus – Old School reflects on troubled school days, while Good Grammar touches on breaking into the game, with a positive message on speech defects. It’s all pretty positive, in fact. Anyone who knows Scorz just from the powerhouse anthem that is Great Britain might be left wondering if this is the same rapper. Tunes like Live Free still bring a political Monsanto-y edge, but Scorz is really more chilled out and focused on his craft, as well as his relationship with hip hop, here. 1995 is an ode to Scorz’s biggest influences (think Biggie, Big L, Showbiz and AG), over a banging beat that could easily have come from the Wu. Gangsta Wraps is a hilarious paean to violent bars and fast food. And he’s supported by a host of talent too, including Taskforce’s Chester P, Juga-Naut, Cappo, Vandal Savage, Nina Smith and Joy Mumford. At 28 tracks, it isn’t a single session’s listening, but when it’s twenty years in the making, Scorz wouldn't have wanted to give any less value to the fans. Shariff Ibrahim

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Ady Suleiman
This Is My EP
EP (Pemba Records/Sony Music)

The Grantham/Notts funkster’s debut EP will leave listeners reeling in anticipation of a full-length album. So Lost sees a grimey beat accompany a funky staccato guitar riff straight out of Prince territory. It’s a soul-drenched number that manages to sound so fresh, mixing in all the ingredients and influences that have shaped Ady’s sound. Need Somebody to Love and State of Mind have been consistent numbers on his setlist for the past few years, familiar to anyone who’s seen him live; catchy love-felt messages equally fitting for the bedroom or dancefloor. Out of Luck exhibits Ady’s lyrical ability, expressing stories of drugs, death and social realism upon a Midlands landscape. This release showcases his illustrious gravelly alto, complete with falsettos and harmonics to tantalise the listener on a sun-soaked journey free of worries. A singer bound to make serious movements on the scene. Jack Garofalo

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Alright The Captain
Contact Fix
Album (Mountains of Records)

An album full of instrumentals can sometimes feel repetitive and slow, but the versatility within this record, coupled with the amount of different styles and mixed with the constant pace change, makes Contact Fix anything but boring. The mixed palette of sounds Alright The Captain have cooked up, from the catchy indie pop of French for Gnome, through to harder rock mixed with electronic in Toaster Mouse, means you can never predict what’s going to come next. This isn’t a messy listen, though - the band mingle every genre into each other neatly and discreetly. In a music industry that can lack versatility itself, it’s extremely refreshing to hear experimentation that isn’t stumbled upon regularly in popular music, especially experimentation pulled off as successfully as it is here. All of this, along with the professional production, adds to the list of reasons these lads deserve a listen. Hannah Parker

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Blind Thieves
Blind Thieves EP
EP (Self-released)

Given the extensive noise they make, it might come as a surprise to the listener to learn that Blind Thieves are a two-piece, comprising only the drums and guitar of Nottingham’s James Morgan and Matt Rogers. Simon and Garfunkel they definitely are not, sitting far closer to The White Stripes, Royal Blood or The Black Keys in the pantheon of great rock duos. Blind Thieves categorically demonstrate that less is more by generating a wall of noise easily big enough to put all of Jack White’s loudest moments comprehensively into the shade. Stitch in Time opens the EP strongly, with some powerful riffing underpinning vocals that bear an echo of the mighty Blaze Bayley (for this Wolfsbane fan, there is no higher compliment). The Lady offers more of the same, but the real gem here is rollicking EP closer, Sex & Death. When you sound this good, who needs a bassist anyway?
Tim Sorrell

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The Death Notes
Lost & Found
Album (Self-released)

Melodic, psychedelic, and progressive aren’t generally the easiest sub genres of rock to put together, but this group have pulled it off. Soft instrumental and vocals are matched with other-worldly effects, and together with the inventive guitar riffs that sit on top of the drumming heartbeat, it’s hard to pick out any wrong-doings on any of the ten tracks. The delicate yet catchy melodies heard in songs such as Lost and Found and Falling From Grace make it a perfect summer-time download listening for those rare sunny English days. However, the denser moments, such as those found on Malice, prove just how versatile this lot are. The strong and epic-sounding vocals will get you singing along in no time, making it perfect not only for those moments where you’re on your own with a book, but when you’re chilling with friends too.
Hannah Parker

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The Pastures
Album (Self-released)

Readers may remember Seachange, Nottingham’s great white hopes in the mid-noughties with a record deal with Matador and critical praise across the music press. Then as things do, life got in the way and they slowly fizzled out. But now they are back. Well, sort of. The Pastures is the long-gestated debut album by Dearest, a band made-up of former members of Seachange. The chiming, emphatic guitars and wordy vocals will soon sound familiar to anyone acquainted with their previous band. It’s a slow build-up until the intensity of Fields of Science really kicks the album into gear. The second half of the LP is where they really find their feet though, the band flexing those songwriting muscles of theirs. A highlight of which is Citizen recalling Green-era REM - a strummed folk-rocker that builds to a chest-beating polemic of mighty force, showcasing what this band does best. Paul Klotschkow

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Felix M-B
Will I Sleep?
EP (Self-released)

I’ve heard Felix play so many times, I thought I knew what to expect. While the tracks sound familiar, they’ve gone through an almighty makeover. A Celtic folk vibe is created when the band kick in halfway through Older Now, and the ease with which Felix switches between falsetto and his standard vocal range is most clearly demonstrated here. Ophelia marks itself as the stand-out single. The lyrics like romantic poetry, and he channels old-school Kooks in both his vocal ‘call’ style and shooting star guitar ‘flicks’. Wasted One is a mightily striking song; surrounding the topic of suicide and the San Francisco Bridge, the lyrics are mature and sensitive, “You throw yourself over to the comfort beneath you”, and accompanying vocals from Lucy Ward conclude the sorrowful tale of the “wasted one”. If you don’t do anything else with yer tabs this month, get downloading this off iTunes. Lucy Manning

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Johnny and the Raindrops
Heading in the Right Direction
Album (Self-released)

Being a parent, for the most part, is fun. What isn’t fun about it, though, is listening to badly recorded kids’ songs. They're enough to drive anyone insane, let alone someone who regularly has to function on less sleep than Maggie Thatcher. Thankfully these guys have been throwing a lifeline out to parents since 2008. On what’s their seventh album, they crack straight in with a rockabilly cat-themed song, followed soon after by a jaunty ditty about going off to pirate school. Along with a catchy song about being a superhero flying up Mansfield Road, they also pay homage to one of their personal heroes on Iggy Pop, “He can bend and twist 'til you think he'd break, and wiggle his arms just like a snake.” Quite. All the songs are slickly written and produced, and will no doubt have your offspring jumping and grooving all over the house. Ali Emm

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The Jonathan Curtis Eclectic Band
Album (Self-released)

An album that proudly boasts to be jazz-fusion may initially leave you feeling a little cold inside, but it’s not all bad as Carousel proves. The titular Jonathan Curtis, who directs his musical companions from behind his drum kit, showcases his flair as a drummer of some style on The Root. His jazzy drum fills pleasingly roll throughout the song; and he really goes to town on Speak Easy, a tribute to jazz of the twenties and thirties. But it’s not all about him, this is definitely a band record. Clumsy title aside, Big Man Ting is actually a successful welding of squelchy reggae bass and more traditional jazz stylings while, on Indigo Child, pianist Tom Sharp gives his digits a real workout on some top rollicking ivory tinkling. It won’t be for everyone, but as a showcase of what’s going on away from Nottingham’s more traditional band scene, this album is worth investigating. Paul Klotschkow

Find local releases in The Music Exchange. You can also hear a tune from each review on our Sound of the Lion podcast.

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