Bradley Wiggins

Music Reviews: May 2015

19 May 15 words: Music Reviews
With Amber Run, Dirty Joe, LeChuck, Louis Antonious, Nick Jonah Davies, Surfacing, Suspect Alibi, Zoojar, and more
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Amber Run
5am
Album (RCA/Sony Music Entertainment)

In a whirlwind rise to fame, they were signed to RCA after only a handful of gigs, and now the pace seems to have slowed a little for Amber Run. After three excellent EPs, the debut album from the five-piece who formed at the University of Nottingham is finally here and could be set to propel the band to huge things. If you've been following the band's career so far then much of the content of 5am will be familiar to you. The title track from their Pilot EP is included here, while singles Noah and Spark feature alongside recent release Just My Soul Responding. But that doesn't mean 5am is a cobbled-together collection of songs we've heard already – there is some great new material here. 5am sets out its stall early and starts as it means to go on with haunting opening track I Found delivering a massive punch thanks to unpretentious lyrics and unfussy production. The rest of the album follows suit. Comparisons with the likes of Bastille and Coldplay are obvious but valid, not least because the band have taken a slightly Mylo Xyloto approach in placing a couple of short instrumental pieces between tracks. It's not just throwaway radio fluff, however, as they successfully combine stadium choruses with sophisticated instrumentation. If you're a fan of punchy indie rock, 5am is definitely for you. It's a terrifically impressive debut and if Bastille can make it big then this deserves to be number one across the globe. Superb stuff. Nick Parkhouse

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Dirty Joe
C*n't Is a 4-Letter Word
Album (Self-released)

The four-letter c-word doesn't get that much of an outing in songs, but on C*n't Is a 4-Letter Word, the filthy bogger Dirty Joe flings it about with refreshingly rude relish. The title track is a perfect showcase for Joe's dirty, bragging bars, enhanced by DJ Loop Skywalker's c-word-based cuts (the album sees him scratch all manner of sweary samples, including Colin Farrell's lilting Celtic curses) and a dark, violin-based beat you'll love if you're a fan of the likes of Taskforce, Jehst and Louis Slipperz. Nothingham is a great tribute to the history of our city, with Joe's broad Notts diction championing local achievements that include Robin Hood, Cloughie and Ibuprofen. It's all tied together by some nice interludes, courtesy of Joe's soul record collection and Groucho Marx, making for a brilliantly mucky album that bears repeated listens. Shariff Ibrahim

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LeChuck
Demo
EP (Self-released)

It’s a simple truth that, at some point in conversation with a hipster, they will name-drop a band that they’ve never really listened to because they think it’s cool. I call this the ‘Fugazi-er than thou’ moment, after the legendary post-hardcore rockers. Every so often though, you come across the real deal: someone who actually has spent time listening to Fugazi. Named after an evil undead-demon-zombie-ghost pirate, LeChuck are steeped in awkward, spiky noise and have the musical chops to prove it. They take influence from bands like Sonic Youth and Weezer as well as Fugazi and, on this EP, they sound suitably raw, slightly gawky and alive with possibilities. How can you not love a chorus that contains the threat heard in Prepare to Die!, “I will milk every drop of blood from your body” and the answer, “How appropriate, you fight like a cow”? Superb, and for a band with that name, entirely apt. Tim Sorrel

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Louis Antoniou
Louis Antoniou
EP (Self-released)

This young lad may be fairly fresh-faced to the Notts music landscape, but he’s certainly caught up quickly by getting his name around town. With a playful, blues-based sound throughout, from the instruments to the lyrics and singing style, the music this guy creates will leave you begging for more. The world-weary troubadour of Dear God and the more bar-band feel of Forever Climbing gives you an idea of the many styles Louis Antoniou is capable of mixing together while creating something cohesive. This is music that works well recorded, but is begging to be played live. The fact that he plays all the instruments himself apart from the drums makes you wonder how he would perform on stage, but is a heavy indicator of how fun his gigs must be. Hannah Parker

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Nick Jonah Davies
House of Dragons
Album (Lancashire and Somerset)

I’ve not heard guitar playing on such an immense scale since first seeing the live version of Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love. Splitting rhythms with the same hand is a talent reserved for the angels, it seems. Nick Jonah Davies appears to be the ring leader of said creatures, possessing finger-picking skills us mere mortals can only dream of. As the album began with title track House of Dragons, I waited to hear some vocals and lyrics, but soon became entranced with the overlaying melancholy melodies, bass lines and rhythms. I’d have to call Peace of Running Water the stand-out track. In a sense, it’s an onomatopoeic song, conjuring the image of a slow stream, trickling down in an idyllic mountain range somewhere. It is soft, smooth, relentless, and I was drifting away at my desk. Bloody beautiful. Lucy Manning

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Surfacing
Surfacing
Album (Self-released)

There aren’t many better ways to tackle elitist cultural hierarchy than through an onslaught of industrial electronic noise that screams “We’ll take back what’s always been ours”. Between the five tracks of the band’s debut album, there is a journey through outright aggression and scary vocals, to a melodic bleakness akin to sitting in a wind chime garden during a storm. It challenges all preconditioned expectations of music. There is no stand-out song – they all work together as a complete piece that adopts an air of being beyond the imagination. It works. Hypocalypse preaches, while Melancholy of Fulfilment has the ability to put even the hardest of nuts into a meditative trance. Where some artists throw different frequencies, instruments and vocals into a mixer and come out with a melody, Surfacing have created a thought-provoking piece of art. Rachel Lewis

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Suspect Alibi
Roadside EP
EP (Self-released)

This debut EP from the young, local five-piece is an accomplished slice of indie pop and rock. Seventeen minutes of quality melodies are delivered through guitars, synths and tight vocal harmonies to back up George Gretton’s clean, crisp lead vocals. Opener and title track Roadside features chunky bass and robust tub thumping, underpinning a sound reminiscent of MGMT and our first taste of those irresistible harmonies. Homeland is a lighter, brighter, more upbeat affair while third track, Just Don’t, has a Vampire Weekend, calypso feel, building to a huge, anthemic chorus. Final track Nowhere has a rather nice guitar intro, giving way to spacey keyboard sounds and more of those beautiful harmonies; the powerful chorus builds to a crescendo boosted by soaring guitar. With a Glastonbury appearance last year and their first Rock City-headlining gig in April, this EP is a satisfying first offering that should maintain the momentum. Craig Farina

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Zoojar
Alpha EP
EP (Self-released)

Electronic dance music has become increasingly popular in recent years. So popular, in fact, that it’s difficult to find something unique and listenable both when sober in your room and when dancing in a club. Zoojar’s recent EP is able to prove that within the EDM genre, talent is something that, when found, can be incredibly addictive. Whether you’re getting ready for a night out, or listening while commuting, tracks like Stray Dog and I Also Need To Love will be played on repeat. Zoojar has created a collection of tracks that stand up to repeated listening, sounding full and fun, with clean, on-point production throughout – they’re clearly running a tight ship when it comes to quality control. Even if you’re not an electronic music fan, this is an EP that can be appreciated by the masses. Hannah Parker

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Various Artists
We Own Them
Compilation (I Own You Records)

A compilation album “in aid of protecting and supporting the UK’s vital NHS service from the threat of privatisation and mistreatment” is no bad thing in our books. Among the fourteen tracks that have been compiled here, We Own Them treats us to a host of varied delights: a newey from The Cusp that channels Grandaddy at their most tender, disorientating techno crunch courtesy of Betty & The Physics, and Emma O & Leetabix raucously mixing beatboxing and fuzzed-up guitars to thrilling effect on a cover of Fugazi’s Waiting Room. It’s a mixed bag for sure, and even though it’s a cliche to say, there really is something for everyone here. With all profits raised going to 999 Call for the NHS (999callfornhs.org.uk), you could do worse than slipping them some dosh, as I’m sure we’ve all had to make use of NHS services at some point. Paul Klotschkow

You can hear a tune from each review on our Sound of the Lion podcast.

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