Witterquick – Beneath the Spinning Lights Review

PromoImage1This is a classy offering to showcase the talents of upcoming British rockers Witterquick. The five piece from Exeter formed a couple of years ago and have taken their time perfecting their art into five rather good tunes on their long awaited debut EP ‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’. They are on the melodic side of the alt-rock spectrum and there’s an anthemic feel to their well crafted songs that makes for highly enjoyable listening; don’t be surprised if they start picking up some serious airplay.

Opening track ‘Soldiers’ has been kicking around for a while; its laid back rock groove, rousing chorus and unhurried approach are pure quality. The uptempo ‘Fade Out’ follows with another catchy chorus and shows off frontman Will Alford‘s vocal versatility.

Their radio friendly appeal is very evident on the smooth ‘The Road’, its atmospheric lead in adding a laid back dimension to what is a big tune of soaring guitar lines. Although it is another winning moment, it is very much within their comfort zone as they tend to stick to traditional arrangements to structure their work.

Even so, every track on the EP has something to offer, the acoustic strum and easy piano melody of ‘Wayward Signs’ highlights their heartfelt side and is a quite lovely track. The interesting thing here is the restraint they show, it’s a very mature approach for such a young band that obviously has the chops, but has chosen the route of less is more; good work fellas. ‘Rise’ then rounds things off in style as they kill it on this massive track of superbly delivered hooks; it’s a stirring finale that helps make this a well rounded little collection of songs.

Witterquick seem to have a natural feel for quality tunes and there’s a hell of a lot of potential on display here. It would be great to see these guys push their creative boundaries a little and see how far they can go.

8.5/10

‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’ is out now on LAB Records and is available from http://witterquick.co/

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What’s Hot in My House – June

After binging on Iron Maiden in order to give birth to not one, but two monumentally massive mega articles on the metal legends, I actually ended up at a bit of a loss as to what to listen to. For like a minute. There has been a couple of really hot records out recently that I’ve reviewed, like the gorgeous Whitney record, besides a couple of other gems, and there’s been some interesting releases over at Already Heard as well. We’ve also had this bizarre change in the weather here in Brazil, where it has actually been cold. Seriously. I’ve even worn a jacket once or twice. So, naturally the music of choice tends to take a turn for the melancholy – more so than usual – and some old wintery songs get dusted off. Anyway, check out the current selection of hot favourites blasting through my earphones at unfeasibly loud volumes that my phone consistently warns me about.

The first time I played Lonely The Brave‘s Things Will Matter and opening track ‘Wait in the Car’ segued into the massive ‘Black Mire’, I got flushed with goosebumps, like a full body chill; damn when music has the power to move you like that you know it’s something special. The rest of the album is also nothing short of superb and I keep going back for more. I love the fact that LTB didn’t rush this record, nor did they make it overtly commercial, instead you get a band relishing in their own sound and pushing their creative boundaries a little further with some seriously good tunes. Massive band, massive album.

There was quite a lot of fuss about The Hotelier‘s emotionally wrought record ‘Home, Like NoPlace Is There’, and quite a lot of anticipation for it’s follow up, ‘Goodness’, which is all about trying to find the light, and which I personally am enjoying immensely. This is an intelligently crafted album, with deeply reflective lyrics and some wonderfully worked songs that reveal more with every listen. I don’t want to compare them to R.E.M, as that’s kind of limiting and hugely unfair considering the personal nature of their work, but we are in similar territory sonically, albeit with a little more edge to the jangly college radio feel of their guitars. Whatever, it’s pretty damn good and well worth a serious listen.

Which brings me to the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, ‘The Getaway’. The Chilis may have mellowed a little with age, but their inimitable brand of funk rock is no less compelling. There’s a more laid back feel to their sound and with Dangermouse at the production helm there is a marked atmospheric vibe to the songs. Nevertheless, lead off single ‘Dark Necessities’ is blessed with a killer hook, a pulsating bass line and some delicious funky guitar touches; it’s got quality written all over it and sets the tone for the rest of the record. The album is packed with great tunes like ‘We Turn Red’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Blood, Sugar…’, the gorgeous ‘The Longest Wave’, and the quirky reggae funk of ‘Feasting on the Flowers’. Ok, it’s RHCP being RHCP, but they do it so well.

Parent – Parent Review

a2085079901_10If you’re anything like me and are a bit of a sucker for some folky melancholy, then Parent are probably right up your street. This is the self titled debut offering from the Manchester duo of Jason Brown (guitar) and Rachel Kern (voice), ably assisted on bespoke string arrangements by Sarah Brandwood-Spencer, and it features a selection of beautifully crafted songs.

‘Dear Lucia’ opens proceedings with an energetic acoustic intro that soon gives way to sedate orchestrated folk. It’s pleasantly atmospheric and Rachel’s chocolate smooth voice is very easy on the ear. ‘Weren’t That Bad’ and ‘You’re Not Broken’ follow in quick succession, continuing the relaxed vibe; it’s all very soothingly melancholic and both tracks benefit from the orchestrated elements that give their sound another dimension.

‘Tipperary’ and ‘Oh Lover’ are comparatively ordinary, but hint at their versatility. ‘Trying’, meanwhile, stands out for its emotional climax as Rachel pushes her vocal range, while delicate touches of piano compliment the swirling orchestration; good track.

Things take a sunnier turn on ‘This Place’, with its slight country feel to the guitar, while piano driven ‘Maneater’ has a jazzy bossa nova vibe that shuffles along nicely. In fact, there’s a surprisingly varied mix on offer, whether it’s the soulful ‘Disadvantage’, the acoustic jazz and meandering violins of ‘Hold on Till Tomorrow’ or the melancholy lament of ‘Until Then’. There’s even a somewhat surprising cover version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, though it’s a totally non-sunshine dirge like version packed with emotion.

Although the lack of percussion gives the record a slightly empty feel, there is plenty to like about these well crafted songs and a lot of potential in their emotionally charged work. Obviously, Parent‘s appeal is more likely to be among those who like their listening on the easy side, but we all need to chill sometimes so why not check it out.

7/10

‘Parent’ is available to buy right here:
http://parentmusic.bandcamp.com/album/parent

Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Eternity

I recently wrote a massive kind of introduction to Iron Maiden piece for http://www.alreadyheard.com, but due to editorial constraints I had to cut it down and change the format and stuff. However, having put rather a lot of time and energy into its researching and writing, I’ve decided to make the most of it to reproduce a brief history right here.

Iron Maiden was born on Christmas day 1975, but spent three years messing around with different members, before Steve Harris, Dave Murray and their then colleagues got it together to record a demo on New Year’s Eve 1978. Such was the popularity of the demo, that in under a year it had been pressed and released under the name of ‘The Soundhouse Tapes’, all 5000 copies selling out in a few short weeks based on word of mouth; had secured them a manager in the rotund form of Rod Smallwood; oh yeah, and landed them a major label record deal with E.M.I..

By April of 1980, riding high on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the Londoners were already delivering the goods – their eponymous debut crashing the UK album charts at number 4. Featuring Paul Di’Anno‘s rough edged vocals, it boasts a raw energy honed to perfection by five long years on the East London pub circuit. From the sinister rock riffing that opens the murderous ‘Prowler’ there is something quite daring about it; this is the sound of a band exploring its creativity, pushing themselves and the Heavy Metal genre forward, reworking classic ideas whilst incorporating new. The most startling example of their innovation is the monumental ‘Phantom of the Opera’, an epic master class in songwriting that helps make ‘Iron Maiden’ one of the finest debuts in Heavy Metal. In one fell swoop, Iron Maiden established themselves as the act to follow, not only in sound, but also in marketing, the stunning first glimpse of Eddie The Head the first step to establishing their merchandise empire.

However, Harris and Murray were still having difficulties with personnel, which led to Adrian Smith joining the band prior to the recording and release of 1981’s ‘Killers’. Although it was another quality album, there was little to set it apart from their debut, it largely consisting of left over material, plus there were more personnel problems on the horizon. Besides the excessive drug use of vocalist Paul Di’Anno, which never really fit the band’s profile, the raspiness that had initially attracted Harris to his voice would prove to be the singer’s downfall; his hard rock tropes were just too limited for the direction the songwriting would take.

Samson‘s Bruce Dickinson was seen as the perfect replacement and slipped seamlessly into the band for the recording of ‘The Number of the Beast’, the album that changed everything, providing their first UK number one. ‘Beast’ is jam packed with killer material, the songs are quite simply in a different class, whether it’s the riff fest that is ’22 Acacia Avenue’, the hook filled chorus of ‘Run to the Hills’ or the subtle complexities to the epic tale of ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, which is arguably the band’s finest moment in itself, the songs are quite simply in a different class. It is a genuine classic that created a template by which future Metal albums would be judged. With Nicko McBrain replacing drummer Clive Burr after the supporting tour, what would become the classic line up was in place and the Maiden machine would march on to conquer the world.

The first half of the 1980s was the band’s most prolific period and would see them produce a quite staggering album a year for five years until 1984, followed by the definitive heavy metal live album in 1985’s ‘Live After Death’. Simply put, it is one of the finest live albums ever recorded and documents the seemingly endless World Slavery Tour following 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ and the 1983 album that first broke them stateside, ‘Piece of Mind’. The tour went on so long that Dickinson actually threatened to quit if they didn’t have a few months off.

The break was short lived however, as they were soon back in the studio for ‘Somewhere In Time’, on which they controversially added some synthesised elements to their signature sound; something they further explored on 1988’s conceptual affair ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’. Even so, both albums were warmly received by critics and fans alike; the latter providing the band with their second UK number one. The supporting tour culminated in their first headline performance at Donington for the Monsters of Rock festival, which was marred by the death of two fans in the crush during Guns n Roses’ UK debut set.

Chinks were starting to appear in Iron Maiden‘s armour though, Dickinson was feeling creatively limited by the band’s sound and released his first solo album, the vibrant ‘Tattooed Millionaire’ in 1990, alongside guitarist Janick Gers. Gers would then find himself employed by Maiden after the departure of long time member Adrian Smith, who was distinctly unhappy (and rightly so!) with the stripped down direction the band was taking on ‘No Prayer for the Dying’, which proved to be a stinker of a record. After having produced seven classic studio albums, at some stage the creative juices had to run dry and ‘Prayer’ is the sound of band pushing the self destruct button. It looks and sounds like Maiden, but it’s like they decided to give the tribute band a shot. How ironic that the second single from the album, the stunningly awful ‘Bring Your Daughter…’, gave them their first number one single – must’ve been a quiet week on the charts.

1992’s ‘Fear of the Dark’ managed to recover some lost pride, but was the final nail in the coffin for Dickinson, who’d simply had enough, the tension of the subsequent tour signalling the end of an era. He was eventually replaced by Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane, who had supported Maiden on their 1990 tour. Blaze’s deeper voice added a darker edge to their sound on the competent ‘X Factor’, but his limitations were starting to show by 1998’s disappointing ‘Virtual XI’ and were undisguisable in the live arena, many of Bruce’s songs proving too challenging for Bayley’s natural register. January 1999 brought the likeable front man’s five year stint to a close, and, at the suggestion of manager Rod Smallwood, Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were both approached to rejoin the band.

From the opening chords of ‘The Wicker Man’ on 2000’s ‘Brave New World’ it is clearly the sound of a band reinvigorated, now boasting a three guitar line-up of Smith, Murray and Gers and a return to more complex compositions. Maiden were back on form and would embark on a run of quality releases through the noughties; besides the superb ‘Rock in Rio’ live album, which neatly captures the enthusiasm of Brazilian fans, both ‘Dance of Death’ and ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, from 2003 and 2007 respectively, were well received and would result in ever more ambitious touring. Not only were their songs getting longer and more complex, rarely dipping below the five minute mark, but the tours were also going to ever greater lengths, visiting more exotic locations and flying in their own plane, Ed Force One, with lead singer Dickinson at the controls. The ‘Flight 666’ movie of their 2008 ‘Somewhere Back in Time Tour’ makes for compelling viewing, giving rare insight into the logistics of a world tour and the dynamic of the band, as they play in places like India, Colombia and Costa Rica as well as the well trodden stages of previous world tours.

For a band that had weathered the turbulence of internal difficulties, coupled with the ever changing musical climate, the fact that after Dickinson and Smith returned they consolidated their creative reputation, besides cementing the popularity of their live performances, is testament to their talent and enduring appeal. For 15th studio album, ‘The Final Frontier’, which was widely expected to be their last, to then go to number one in 28 different countries was a remarkable achievement, as was the Grammy win for single ‘El Dorado’ and the fact that the supporting tour gathered audiences reportedly totalling 2 million people.

It would’ve been no surprise if Iron Maiden had decided to call it a day, but with another greatest hits album, ‘From Fear to Eternity’, and more live releases they found excuses to keep on touring. Their headline performance at Download in 2013 would be their fifth at Donington, 25 years after 1988’s infamous occasion.

The breaks between the albums may have got longer but 2016 finds Iron Maiden touring the world once again, and with another Donington headline appearance lined up. Last year’s ‘Book of Souls’ proved that despite Dickinson’s brush with cancer, Maiden marches inexorably on, the longest album of their career providing yet another UK number one. Although all the albums since the return of Smith and Dickinson have been well received and stand up in terms of quality, it is ‘Book of Souls’ that holds up when compared to the cannon of albums from the eighties. Tracks like ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’ show that they still have a trick or two up their collective sleeves, and that’s before we get to the 18 minute piano driven epic ‘Empire of the Clouds’!

Whether or not ‘Book of Souls’ is their swan song remains to be seen, but for the moment at least, it’s business as usual as their enduring brand continues to thunder across the globe. Who would’ve thought that in the 40 plus years since that Christmas Day in Steve Harris’ living room his brainchild would go on to sell over 90 million albums and monstrous quantities of merchandise, becoming one or the most recognised brands and bands in the world, with multiple number ones, multiple awards and a legacy that makes them one of the most important forces in the history of rock music.

http://ironmaiden.com/

Whitney – Light Upon The Lake Review

52287-light-upon-the-lakeFormed from the ashes of indie/rock band Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Whitney grew out of exploratory songwriting between Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, soon becoming something of a collective, with seven members playing a variety of instruments. Their sound is an enjoyable blend of indie folk rock with a heavy seventies influence and a touch of Americana, and although it’s not exactly at the vanguard, boy, do these guys make a lovely noise.

‘No Woman’ starts out lullaby smooth before a horn motif gives way to an acoustic strum and a fairly watery vocal, but as the falsetto gains a little strength so to does the song. There’s a little orchestration from lilting violins, meandering guitar lines and rich percussion, by the time the uplifting horns come back it’s a richly textured multi-layered thing of beauty, what could easily sound crowded is instead complimentary, with each element given a little breathing space; masterful.

Their use of horns is a constant throughout the album, and along with the groovy guitar licks and the subtle orchestration, many of the songs end up taking on a whole new dimension. ‘The Falls’ for instance, is a quirky two minutes of indie folk, but it features an array of nice little touches that give it a little depth, while ‘Golden Days’ suffles along pleasantly enough until the uplifting horns take it to a whole new level.

At its worst, the album is merely likeable, as on the stripped down title track or the jazzy interlude of ‘Red Moon’, but when everything comes together ‘Light Upon The Lake’ makes for compelling listening. Take ‘Dave´s Song’, the 70s tinged guitar licks add an emotional edge to this easy tale of lost love, the horns once again making it another lovely track. Then there´s ‘Polly’, which is a gorgeous piece of heartfelt crooning that showcases what they are all about – uplifting horns, emotive licks, soft percusion and emotion filled vocals that all makes for beautiful textures.

Although there is a strong nod in the direction of the past, they sound fresh yet retro, be it on the upbeat groove to ‘No Matter Where We Go’ or the Hawaiian vibe of ‘On My Own’, it’s all very likeable. ‘Follow’ closes the album in similar vein with an easy bass groove and bright guitars that give way to a melancholic horn, before building to a characteristically vibrant finale.

There are some quite gorgeous moments on this sublime record from Whitney, and it´s a strong debut album, with beautifully constructed songs boasting rich textures that make for highly enjoyable listening.

8.5/10

5 Slices of Killer Filler

Once upon a time the album format ruled the music business, particularly in the seventies and then again with the CD boom of the late eighties early nineties. However, with the changing landscape of the digital age, singles or individual downloads, legal or otherwise, were the preferred method of consumption for the internet generation. In a somewhat surprising twist it appears that vinyl is making a comeback, and also with the save to device features of streaming platforms being at their most efficient when downloading the whole album, the good old long player format is once again at the fore with all its pros and cons.

The case in favour is basically one of context, artists don’t decide running orders lightly – ever make a playlist? – this shit is important and the combination of songs can make or break a track. For instance, Blur‘s ‘Song 2’ only works as track 2, preferably right after ‘Beetlebum’. I mean can you imagine listening to GnR’s Appetite for Destruction and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ not being followed by ‘It’s So Easy’? Also, the fact that each track is normally intended as part of the ebb and flow of the album’s mood makes each and every song important – at least in the eyes of the artist.

Which brings us to the downside – filler. Unfortunately, not every track on every album can be a classic and sometimes artists stamp their feet and hang on to tracks they have a real personal thing for, but just don’t always strike a chord with the listener. So stuff gets included that maybe would be better left on the studio floor and we start reaching for the skip button, something more complicated for vinyl junkies, but easy as pie for streamers and CD & Mp3 listeners. How many twelve track albums have you heard that would be all killer if they were cut to nine or ten? Then there’s the one hit wonders who build albums around that one awesome track and just don’t have the songs to merit a full LP. You ever buy an album for that one song?

Whatever the case may be, every now and again the lack of patience that has us reaching for fast forward, or the “I love that one killer track” mentality, or even the greatest hits approach, means that certain less well known tracks don’t necessarily get their dues. Sometimes the filler can be killer, check out these low fliers….

Oasis’ debut album, ‘Definitely Maybe is a certified classic and has a lot of very strong songs. ‘Live Forever’, ‘Supersonic’, Cigarettes and Alcohol’ and ‘Slide Away’ all have an enduring popularity, but one song that is often overlooked and was never given enough runs on stage was the mighty ‘Columbia’. Ok, it’s not exactly pushing any boundaries lyrically speaking but it’s got hooks and is just so damn loud. The guitar sound is gigantic and it builds and builds, layer upon layer, lick upon lick as the hypnotic rhythm rolls along in mesmerising fashion; it is surely one of their most unique songs – mad for it.

1991’s ‘Screamadelica’ is a classic album of indie acid house that came about after Andrew Weatherall had deftly deconstructed Primal Scream‘s ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ into the dance floor hand waver and top twenty hit ‘Loaded’. The album is overflowing with dance beats, chill out music and house piano lines that neatly capture the pervading drug culture on (and off) the UK’s dance floors. The album is famous for the aforementioned ‘Loaded’, the uplifting gospel of ‘Movin’ On Up’, the ultra chill of ‘Higher Than The Sun’ (and its dub symphony on side four), floor filler ‘Don’t Fight It Feel It’ and the monumental ‘Come Together’. But hang on a minute, what’s that tucked away half way through side three of the vinyl? A ballad? Yep, and it’s one of the Scream’s most underrated songs. ‘Damaged’ owes a lot stylistically to ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, the song which prompted the whole thing, and is a piano based acoustic strum of summer love featuring sublime guitar work from Robert ‘Throb’ Young, who also did the vocals on ‘Slip Inside this House’, literally impersonating Bobby Gillespie, who was too wasted to sing. ‘Damaged’ stands up as a quite beautiful song, very much in the vein of their regular indie rock style, and is deserving of way more recognition than it gets.

Buried on side seven of the ridiculously overblown ‘Use Your Illusions’, ‘Locomotive’ is one of the most criminally overlooked Guns n Roses songs. The song ebbs and flows through Axl’s story telling and is jam packed with time changes as they drop in all kinds of twists and turns; musically speaking it’s a superbly arranged track, with the piano break in the finale accompanied by understated soloing to provide a classy finish.

‘Hatful of Hollow’ (‘Louder Than Bombs’ in the U.S.A, albeit with a slightly different track listing) is a compilation album of tracks The Smiths recorded for sessions at the BBC, besides a couple of singles. While not exactly a greatest hits album it does feature slightly altered versions of a number of their most famous tracks like ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, ‘Hand in Glove’ and ‘This Charming Man’, but wait, what’s that little gem nestling at mid-album? It’s a song that was only ever recorded for a Peel session in September of 1983 – This Night Has Opened My Eyes’. I’m no Smiths aficionado, but this track has everything that made them great; laid back guitar melody, disturbing lyrics and a subtly twisted pop aesthetic, only it finds Morrissey delivering a beautifully understated vocal while Johnny Marr‘s guitar lines meander along atmospherically; sublime.

Elbow‘s universally acclaimed, million selling, Mercury Music Prize winning album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ is one of the most important records of the last ten years and is filled with many a beautiful moment. With Guy Garvey‘s thoughtful lyrics and the band’s intricately woven musical tapestry it’s a record that is nothing short of superb. The stand out tracks like the massive Grounds for Divorce, ‘The Bones of You’ and ‘One Day Like This’ in all its glory tend to steal all the thunder, yet it’s the rich textures and the subtle details that make this such a fine album and one of the less obvious tracks that repeated listens reveal to be quite stunning is ‘Weather To Fly’. Featuring one of Garvey´s most measured yet brilliant vocals, a delicate piano melody and gorgeous lilting orchestration that takes on a whole new dimension on the Abbey Road version with the BBC Concert Orchestra, it is a song of restrained beauty that is sorely underrated.