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Music Reviews: June 2017

7 July 17 words: Music Reviews

With London Grammar, Tom McCartney, Widows, Sawyer, Minatore, Endless Grinning Skulls, Daudi Matsiko, Cameron Sinclair Harris and Arc Nade...

London Grammar
Truth is a Beautiful Thing
Album (Ministry of Sound Records)

They might hail from the capital – the clue is in the band name – but the fact they were formed in University of Nottingham halls of residence means that we can legitimately claim London Grammar as one of our own. Back in 2013, the trio enjoyed huge critical and commercial success with their debut album, If You Wait. Certified platinum in the UK, the band also won an Ivor Novello award for the top-twenty hit, Strong, before all but disappearing without a trace. Four years later, the band are back with their second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, a record which once again combines Hannah Reid’s plaintive vocals with genre-defying music that somehow manages to be both guitar pop and ambient chillout. I confess that I’ve found myself being completely blown away by their comeback single Rooting For You. It’s a song that showcases the band at their best; mixing heartbreaking lyrics with Reid’s beautiful voice and some stripped-back (almost absent) instrumentation. Sonically, there’s no major departure from If You Wait, although the songwriting has matured and the production is richer and more engaging than before. Big Picture, Bones of Ribbon and Hell to the Liars are highlights, as is the title track; the graceful piano brings the album to a satisfying close. Four years is a long time between first and second albums, so whether this shifts copies in the same way that their debut did is anyone’s guess. It’s a brilliant album though, and a welcome return. Nick Parkhouse

Arc Nade
Trippin’ To The Move
EP (Self-released)

Nottingham’s sound doesn’t get much more bassline than this. Tracks such as Onomic and Feebra offer up perfect examples of this genre’s infectious rhythm; you can’t help but dance to them. While it is certainly an attribute we enjoy, this is not entirely what Arc Nade’s latest work is about. Predominantly, these tracks are what house has always embodied, but the influence of Anne Marie Ceralvo’s unique voice in Falling Free ensures this track’s vibe is mellower than others in the collection, and proves the versatility of this producer. The final song on this four-track release, Tortoise, returns to what we might expect; a skilled demonstration in how to create music made to dance to. This EP caters to the fundamentals of the genre while its change of tone keeps you listening. A rare and excellent thing. Alex Keene

Cameron Sinclair Harris
Grey Matter
EP (Self-released)

Small, indie movies always have the best soundtracks in my opinion and Grey Matter’s cinematic, lyrical quality makes it spot on for that sort of thing. The heavy focus on story, alongside the acoustic backing, makes for songs that are relatable, sweet and honest. The simple mix of guitar, vocals and a little drum, creates a music-for-the-love-of-music kinda vibe; something very sincere and natural. Thanks to his charismatic nature, it’s enjoyable hearing Cameron’s musings about everyday life, from feelings about being confused about who he is to wondering where all his brain cells went. It’s upbeat in places and thoughtful in others, but constantly lively and engaging. The five-track EP includes the songs Brain Cells, Storms, Good Luck, As a Ghost and Insert Your Name Here, and, at a little over seventeen minutes in length, this is definitely worthy of your time. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Daudi Matsiko
An Introduction to Failure
EP (Naim Records)

Fresh from a prestigious music workshop with the Red Bull Music Academy in Canada, and collaborating with two renowned names in underground dance music, Booka Shade and Kyodai, Daudi Matsiko has collected together his first two EPs on this eight-track offering. There are plenty of clues here to tell you that Daudi probably obsessed over that first Bon Iver album quite a bit; much of this EP sounds like a man locked away, pouring his soul out with the curtains drawn, and this is most striking in Houston In The Blind with its multi-tracked vocals and homespun vibe. Although Daudi can come off like a man crushed by life, this isn’t a full-on mope-fest. He is a masterful songwriter, creating songs that draw the listener in with their hushed ambience and lyrical depths. The gentle r ‘n’ b rhythms of Sandwiches or the saxophone in Okay, Since We’re Being Honest are deft touches, adding texture to his bittersweet laments. An introduction to a very talented man. Paul Klotschkow

Endless Grinning Skulls
Risus Sardonicus
Album (Viral Agene Records)

At the cutting edge of Nottingham’s hardcore scene, Endless Grinning Skulls’ latest album is bursting with a furious energy. A “soundtrack for fucked-up times”, Risus Sardonicus sounds like a punk band playing at 1,000mph. With Steve Charlesworth from the legendary Heresy in the engine room thrashing away at his drum kit like he’s wired himself up to a car battery for extra juice, the remaining band members have the perfect launch pad for their brutal and frantic riffage. Austerity? Violence!, Rot, End Times; these are angry songs for angry days. The next time you hear someone moaning that no one writes political songs anymore, point them in the direction of this; among the breakneck guitars and spewed lyrics, they’ll find plenty here. You can see why they’ve previously played alongside Sleaford Mods. Risus Sardonicus is a brutal takedown of modern life fuelled by righteous fury and played with a relentless intensity. Refreshing. Paul Klotschkow

Minatore
Top Down
EP (Self-released)

Minatore screech in, fuelled by the energy and exuberance of youth. Title track Top Down recalls The Vines; a simultaneous slap to the face and a kick up the arse, carried along on a timeless riff which all comes together to make you wonder why there aren’t more songs about driving these days. The other tracks here owe more to that classic grunge sound. Featherstone opens with a riff that Hole would have been proud of, before edging into darker territory while telling us “all there ever is, is all there ever was”. Final song Moving On starts slowly before the gritty guitar kicks in, and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture this song soundtracking many a rock night in a sticky-floored Rock City in the early nineties. This EP will have you checking the cover to confirm there are only two people in the band. Gav Squires

Sawyer
Where The Yetis Speak
EP (Self-released)

This three-song indie-folk release from Sawyer shares some depth and style with other singers of the same genre, like Iron and Wine. Saying that, I’d also compare the EP to other less obvious choices including Daughter and Alt-J, because of the ominous and raw feel of the tracks, with an added undertone of subtle, wavering electronic feels. Where The Yetis Speak is made up of soft, flowing notes; a constant beat; and deep, rich vocals. Showcasing songs Unknown, Once Before My Dear and Grow, the set is calming and steady, making me think of being in a forest as the trees sway all around. The songs have a feel of being very paced and poignant; the antithesis of the fast-moving pop tracks sometimes heard on the radio. This EP feels more natural and down to earth while retaining a back bone. Proper stuff. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Tom McCartney
Well Dressed Man
EP (Self-released)

Think you knew rock ’n’ roll? Think again. This EP proves the genre that includes such music royalty as Elvis Presley and Little Richard is still capable of throwing up new sounds you’ve never heard before. With the addition of some country and blues, McCartney has created a modern-yet-authentic version of a sometimes tired genre. Tracks such as Not From Around This Time and Hard Times a’ Comin’ prove how talented this young lad is. The signature wobble in his deep, strong vocals add character to his music. However, the music, whether it’s the skiffley shuffle of opener Not From Around This Town or the bluesy bluster of the title track, is authentic in its delivery with the feel of a band playing live. There may be only four songs to enjoy on this EP, but you’ll be well and truly knackered by the time you’ve finished gallivanting about the place to it. Hannah Parker

Widows
Oh Deer God
Album (UMC Recordings)

If you’re the kind of band that namechecks Lucifer in your lyrics, has a fascination with the number 666 and produces album artwork that features a magnificently psychedelic eight-armed deer, when would you release your new album? Why, on Good Friday, of course. Following on from 2012’s Death Valley Duchess, Oh Deer God is thirty minutes of furious, pounding stoner rock delivered with swagger and style. Although clearly influenced by the likes of Clutch and Kyuss, I’d say that Widows are heavier than both those bands and you can add the monstrous groove of a desert-rock-tinged Black Sabbath to the mix. Two song titles describe their sound better than I ever could: Caffeine and Hatred and Heresy and Venom. That masterful change of pace about four minutes into Ride to the Realm of Coitus, when the band relax into their groove, is surely worth the price of entry on its own. Tim Sorrell

Rather listen to these tunes than read about ‘em? Wrap your tabs round Sound Of The Lion, our dedicated music podcast. If you want your own tunes reviewed and you’re from Notts, hit up leftlion.co.uk/sendusmusic

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