Friday, 26 February 2016

Native Kings - Sound Of Victory, single review

previously published on

Sounding it's arrival with the kind of guitar hook Foals would be proud of, a rhythm section determined to bring the funk, and a whooping choral chant that repeats over, Native Kings show their determination to grab you by the ears with their latest single and not let go.

Angst and self-assured determination are another two contributing factors featured high in the mix of Sound Of Victory, a song that has all the hallmarks of inducing strong vitriolic emotion amongst teenagers that seem unsure of their place in this world, yet are united by the power of music and an eager and sweaty circle pit.  

Undeniably catchy and studiously owing musical debts to a number of fist-pumping 'rock' bands that have climbed their way up to arena status since the turn of the century, Sound Of Victory perfectly encapsulate the sound of being caught in the eye of an anthemic punk-pop storm.

Released 25th February

Yann Ryan - Time, EP review

It isn't very often that I discover the music I am reviewing by way of answering a listing on Gumtree... But so the story goes, my contract was coming to an end at work and I was scouring the internet for jobs, then I got bored and distracted and instead started scouring Gumtree adverts for musical collaborations instead of job vacancies.

And so I came to meet up with Yann Ryan, enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with him in a pub near Liverpool Street Station and slowly begin work by trading files and ideas back and forth across the internet.

At some point, these new re-imaginings of mine became stuck in hard-drive limbo as real-life sucked me in and spat me out, but I had felt fortunate enough to have been given access to the raw and effecting audio files, to be able to isolate the bewildering vocal take and sit there in wonder as it repeated over, wondering how anything I could do could possibly even attempt to improve upon such a rustic and fully formed talent.

Around a year and a half later or so and I feel my fortunes have changed, I think maybe I can check in on Yann and possibly put this project to bed, but in this time Yann Ryan has pulled together an EP that includes some the tracks I had a stab at reshaping in a far different form, and I'm happy that these songs are finally out in the world, the music that I had been so eager to share with others but felt that I had to sit upon for fear of over-stepping boundaries can now be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Released last December, the Time EP is a downtrodden and fragile affair that is buoyed by the gravitational pull of Yann's crisp, oaken voice, a voice that stopped me in tracks when I first heard it, and the strength and intricacies of his songwriting still captivate me.  Few artists would even dare to weave their lyrics with such obtuse vocabulary as 'inconsequential' and casually reference 'Bosnia Herzegovina', but Yann makes it feel effortless, and the unique outlook he adds to the remit of the singer/songwriter is refreshing.

I still hope that the tracks we collaborated on will still come to light in one form or another, but for now I am happy to support Yann Ryan's talents and selflessly share his music with the wider world without the cloak of self-aggrandising.

Regardless, I'd like to catch up with Yann again over a few more pints and wish him well.

Out now via Bandcamp

Friday, 19 February 2016

Ciaran Lavery - Return To Form, single review

Twangs of joyful pain play out over twinkling percusion, delivered by a voice that contains just enough gravel to make my heart melt.

At some point I grew older, I grew softer, and at some point I developed a wider appreciation of all things singer/songwriter and folky.

Where once it was a calming punctuation in a hectic life, now I long for the escape into a quiet sanctuary of beardy chin-stroking and acoustic guitars, to disconnect while I have the chance and get away from constant updates, chiming whatsapp tones and spoon-fed algorithms.

Thank you Ciaran Lavery, for providing three minutes and fifteen seconds of reflection.  He is speaking my language, almost taking my own words and putting them to song, Lavery is signalling the end of a different existence, gently declaring that things have changed, steadfastly declaring that life has changed.

We can't hold back the years, all of our lives have brought us to this point so far, so let's use that life experience to be the best version of us that we can possibly be.

Out now via Believe Recordings

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mayflower Madame - Weightless, single review

previously published on

As you watch the light slowly dying on the horizon at the end of the working day and pray for the eventual return of our British summer, spare a thought for Mayflower Madame, a band birthed by the cold Norwegian winters of Oslo.

Debut single 'Weightless' serves as a taster for the four piece's first album due to follow in April, and it signals a certain brooding darkness prevalent among acts that prefer to be shrouded by smoke-machines whilst their guitars chime out, think early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and also their obvious shared influences of the darker tone of music that cut a swathe through the eighties like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Bauhaus.

So stop dreaming of your holiday, allow yourself to wallow a little longer and perhaps pick out a box set or two of acclaimed Scandinavian crime drama to fill the time and set the tone for the forthcoming full-length album.

Single released 18th February via Night Cult Records
Album released 22nd April

Friday, 12 February 2016

Daniel Haaksman - African Fabrics, album review

previously published on

While we've made it through January but now seem living through February prepared to cower from the next potential mega-storm to batter British shores, there is light at the end of the tunnel... or at least a soundtrack to the journey through this meteorologically challenged tunnel that will help take your mind off broken fence panels, lost weather vanes and embarrassing battles in public with your umbrella.

This is a public service announcement, for your own safety and sanity, please bunker down in a secure holding and tune into the latest sunshine-blessed offering from Daniel Haaksman.

The Berlin based label-owner and DJ was brought to my attention with a high-tempo debut album helmed and released in 2011, previous to this Haaksman had been exporting some of the finest Baile Funk to the wider partying public, and it is reassuring to know that his musical flirtations with cultural diversity are still going strong, and that it is this passion for spreading 'world-music' to the world that forms the thematic backbone of this album.

It is possible to simply play this album from start to finish and only hear the music, to become lost in the rich musical textures that feel delightfully foreign to the common-or-garden Englishman, to feel compelled to move to the beats and the rhythms emanating from the stereo, but this is to only scratch the surface of the full ’African Fabrics' experience.

More than just an album to brighten up dark days and lively up your party playlists, Daniel Haaksman borrows from and translates South African pop music, Ugandan rap, Columbian guitars, Angolan kudora and Zimbabwean marimba into electronically paired productions fit for European consumption, and this is the driving factor that brings together all these richly diverse sounds that straddle a continent, yet to uneducated ears simply sound 'African'.

Five years ago the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare referenced the famous René Magritte painting “Ceçi n´est pas une pipe” when he declared that “A picture of a pipe isn´t necessarily a pipe, an image of “African Fabric” isn´t necessarily authentically African”, and it is with this mindset that Haaksman wove his own music.

Just as fabric or art that echoes a particular culture may have its manufacturing and distribution methods far removed from the geographical location that spawned it, so has the interconnection of the World Wide Web created a false approximation of what even enlightened souls would consider as authentically African music, homogenised and filtered as accessibility to diversity, Daniel Haaksman has created a new tapestry that pays homage to the originators, yet is self-aware in its own knowledge and strongly alludes to the fact that these new 'African Fabrics' carry a “Made In Berlin” label.

Released February 26th via Man Recordings

Friday, 5 February 2016

Married To The Sea - Cold War Love, EP review

previously published on

A trill synth relentlessly breaks down my defences as it thunders harmoniously through the title track, the first of three songs that make up Married To The Sea's forthcoming Cold War Love EP. Sprightly rhyming couplets pack a poppy punch reminiscent of early Phoenix, signalling that these lively Liverpudlian lads clearly know their way around a tune, and they have been paving the way to their fourth EP release with support slots for The Maccabees and the hotly-tipped Hinds and Gengahr, making for fine musical company to keep.

The wares on display are slim, but brilliantly concise. Two tunes that pop in the indie-est sense of the word, and one song to pull at the heart strings. Some people see mention of Snow Patrol as a dirty word, I for one am not one of them, and Save It For The Field has more than a passing resemblance to the output of Gary Lightbody's clan, a band that grew from independent roots on Jeepster to conquer arenas around the globe, and if that serves as a comparison in terms of musical quality then surely it is not a comparison to be sniffed at.

Save It For The Field is heartfelt, it is sparse, yet lushly orchestrated, it is both simple yet aspiring in its nature. It is certainly deserving in gaining Married To The Sea some welcome attention.

And with every listen, the two musical touchstones that I keep coming back to are Phoenix and Snow Patrol. Both bands that came up under the radar, putting out music long before the commercial and critical acclaim came their way, bringing along with it bundles of new fans. Both bands that knock out a rousing tune and can find their way around the more electronic elements of the musical spectrum. 

The first taste I had of Married To The Sea was closing track I Dreamed I Was Disappearing, and it perfectly embodies the career defining aesthetics of the two bands I choose to compare them to melded into one joyful indie-pop stormer, that even sat listening to alone I can already envision the infectious bounce of an audience, I can see the fists-pumping and feel the euphoric wave that suggests a perfect crowd-surfing soundtrack.

I'm keen to see where their ambitions progress from here and hope that fortune sees fit for these guys to emulate a heady climb up the musical career ladder.

Released 11th March 2016