Review :: Kyla La Grange – Ashes

“Channeling the past great women of rock, Kyla’s vocals evoke the ghostly, tormented lyricism and harmonics of a Stevie Nicks not yet bitter with the world”

The second and third albums are said to be the trickiest to deliver. Especially after a success that was perhaps never fully expected. That certainly has always been the case in the tospy-turvy, often fickle world of the music industry.

Although it may have undergone a series of radical changes within the last decade, the industry as a whole still proves to be a place where young artists are desperate to break into. Come hell or high water, there are legions of singers, songwriters, bands and soloists from all the different corners of social and economic backgrounds that wish to ply their trade and become the next global superstar.

As the circles of genres and subgenres tighten, the digital availability of music and instant, thro away culture has given birth to a new breed of artist aching to be discovered. The latest in a long line of these is one Kyla La Grange.

Her debut album, Ashes, offers a unique and well rounded approach to the single female vocalist who yearns to tell a story. Standing at eleven tracks long, the album marks another chapter in this young woman’s musical adventure and another piece of work ready to be thrown into the jaws of the baying, music buying public

But this is no glitzy pop number or electro infused dance track. Instead, La Grange reaches out to the more discerning musical tastes and brings a piece of work suited for those who enjoy lyricism, imagery and grand sound. Lead singles, “Been Better,” and “Heavy Stone” display a mature approach to a musical passion that can sometimes be overlooked and unfairly ignored in modern markets.

Channeling the past great women of rock, Kyla’s vocals evoke the ghostly, tormented lyricism and harmonics of a Stevie Nicks not yet bitter with the world. The tributes to previous trailblazers continue throughout the album.

“To Be Torn,” demonstrates Kyla’s enormous vocal range in a more than blatant tip to the ethereal qualities that made Kate Bush an international star. Where La Grange differs, however, is the distinctly 21st century styling and delivery. Oozing with glossy production that drips from every track of Ashes, this is music for the contemporary adult.

Bearing her teeth, quite literally at times, this album yields an edgier quality often amiss from artists of this persuasion. Tracks like “Vampire Smile,” the third single, combine the savage beauty and fragile, folkish charm that is set to propel La Grange into the mainstream in a flurry of accolades and praise.

All too often a softly spoken, eternally innocent yet well travelled female singer has come along and failed to live up to expectation. In the digital age of self-production, self promotion and sky high self assurance, the market place is clogged with those who emulate Diana Vickers and Pixie Lott. Indeed, the competition is now of such a high caliber that a revolving door policy seems to exist with even those who are sought to be established members of the industry.

Barring the monumental success of Adele, the female singer wearing her heart on her sleeve, soul bared for all to see, is at a premium in the 21st century. Not that it should be the case but it is with great surprise then that an album like Ashes offers what can only be described as a genuinely enjoyable, substantial and artistically credible piece of work.

Kyla La Grange is about to make a big splash in the music scene of 2012. Ashes is as strong a debut album as any that have been released this year and within recent memory. With the backing of her label, the ever impressive and imposing Sony, great things are expected from this young woman from Watford. Released on July 30th, the proof will, as ever be in the pudding when the general public get their hands on it.

Kyla’s official website has details of availability and tours.

Advanced Album Preview :: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Its a Corporate World

© Warner Bros Music 2012

“A living detachment exists between the music and listener”

It seems there is a renaissance afoot. Amongst the musical community, the resurgence of indie infused psychedelic, electro pop has never been more popular.

As much of a mouthful as that seems, the oncoming summer months seem to bring out such bands like midges from a mossy log. Throwing their hat into the ring with debut offering It’s a Corporate World are Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

For those UK fans unfamiliar with the band. Formed in Detroit, Michigan, the duo takes their name from American Indy Car racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. who, according to some sources, is a reputable fan of the band. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott have sky rocketed their reputations amongst fans and music critics alike since their formation in 2007.

Branding themselves as psychedelic, electro and Motown influenced, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. appear to be on the cusp of domination of the indie, elector scene. This debut album, It’s a Corporate World arrives as the total of maligned performances, side projects and other dedications that have prevented the two members from publishing their collective work. They bring the haunting, wistful vocals and soft guitar hooks that have established them as a stand out indie outfit to what will presumably be a much wider audience, possibly globally.

Tracks “Simple Girl,” “When I open My Eyes,” and the eponymous “It’s a Corporate World,” showcase the band’s eclectic, anathema style. Drawing clear influences from late Beatles and their own brand of psychedelic pop rock, Epstein (coincidentally) and Zott mesh seamlessly together both vocally and musically.

None more apparent than the harmonic, toe tapping “Vocal Chords.” A fun, catchy, high tempo track that lends itself perfectly to the up coming summer months, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. know their audience and how to effectively win them over new listeners.

This stellar rise amongst their own scene and the music industry as a whole raises some suspicions amongst the more skeptical listeners. And therein lies the problem with both Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and this debut album. It’s a Corporate World is, quite simply, a clean cut, glossy, over produced album that would be more suited to a band’s second or third offering.

Following their various EP releases and a loyal fan following of their energetic live performances, this fully fledged debut album arrives amongst a sea of publicity. None more apparent than the highly touted select UK appearances on Club NME and HMV Next Big Thing. Surprising, surely, to those indie electro groups from native shores who are still scratching around on their home turf all begging for that big break. More importantly, with substantial discographies behind them.

Fundamentally, the band’s ethos and material seems oddly unoriginal enough to warrant this lavish production. Although by no means a poor piece of work, it is exactly that that makes for suspicious reasoning. They may sing of heartfelt, unrequited love and psychedelic jaunts through golden fields, albeit with the looming presence of a disapproving chaperone lurking somewhere in the background. It’s fun but well supervised fun.

A living detachment exists between the music and listener. Begging the question, have Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. sold out before they were even in? Suddenly the album’s title takes on an altogether more sinister and frightening meaning.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The album is released on May 24th. All info on the band and availability can be found, as ever, on the official website,

Review :: Dave Arcari – Nobody’s Fool

On the shoulders of giants.

Nobody's Fool © DixieFrog

Trail blazing a path that has now taken him all across the globe, Dave Arcari has returned with a fourth album, Nobody’s Fool. A regular here on M&B, Dave’s unique brand of delta blues infusion and throaty folk tradition have proven to be great successes for the man in the hat so far.

It seems like an almost incalculably long time since Arcari’s last offering, Devil’s Left Hand stormed onto the country scene in late 2010. By comparison, Got Me Electric is now over two years old and still offers a fresh, invigorating sound to what is one of the oldest genres of music. It is with this same pioneering approach that Arcari delivers Nobody’s Fool.

Recorded between Finland and Arcari’s native Scotland, Nobody’s Fool represents the growing international recognition of the singer himself. This latest offering is his most ambitious to date. That ambition drips from every one of the thirteen tracks with a glossy, conscious production as Arcari is joined by some substantial names from the across the industry. Most notable of these is on “One Blind Side” where drummer Paul Savage of The Delgados fame. Part of one of the most successful, well loved Scottish indie bands of all time, the testimony, is all Arcari’s. This is a collaboration, not an endorsement and, more importantly, something that works.

Featuring previously released tracks re-recorded at Sonic-Pump studios in Finland; the album offers more of what has come to be expected from Aracri. Following a “if it aint broke…” policy, Nobody’s Fool is as throat raspingly raw as it’s predecessors. With a voice that feels like a saw’s blade, the man in the hat takes listeners on long, emotional, heart felt rides with every song. As is customary in Delta Blues, the need to lament, bemoan and generally feel sorry for one’s self is something expertly delivered and weighted in Arcari’s signature brogue. Indeed, had it not already been started in the American bayou, Scotland would no doubt be the blues capital of the universe.

With the added weight of three successful albums behind him, Nobody’s Fool marks a watershed in Arcari’s career. No longer considered a fringe artist in a niche market, this outing will most likely become Dave’s most widely acclaimed piece. Both through general exposure and now substantial touring back catalogue and set to draw from, Arcari is now on the threshold of wider acclaim and recognition across all musical spectrum. The importance of Nobody’s Fool is therefore much greater than simply another forum for new material and re-recorded classics. It is the wide spread calling card that could become synonymous with an artist and his career.

The breakthrough album is what every artist aspires to achieve, that’s just musical fact. Some spend whole careers before achieving the feet, David Bowie being one who slaved through mediocrity before going stratospheric. Others hit the jackpot on their (relatively) first attempt, Michael Jackson’s solo career, The Clash and of course, Guns n Roses. But when the dust settles, the last cocktail drunk and the spoon cooled down, all that matters is the quality of the work left behind.

With that in mind, Nobody’s Fool is an album that will be regarded in the future as a defining moment for Dave Arcari. The potential has been evident for years and success has duly flowed. Thousands of gigs and albums sold are testimony to Arcari’s growing endurance and loyal fan base. The next step therefore awaits, the signature breakthrough for an artist most deserving of the accolades that brings. Time, as it always does, will tell.

For details, and availibility, visit the official website:

Album Review :: Birds That Change Colour – On Recording the Sun

Strap on your skates and dust off your love beads, Psych-Rock is back.

Courtesy of Jezus Factory Records © 2012

Psychedelic-folk rock is not the easiest genre to let roll off of the tongue. Indeed, since its inception way back in the hazy sixties, there have been few markets of popular music as niche and subtle as this. As The Beatles provided a Technicolor master class to start with and Pink Floyd dabbled in the mysteries of the universe seven years later, the folk infused guitar riffs of rock and roll became altogether more relaxed and laid back.

It is from Belgium then that, some four and a half decades later that the latest pretenders to the psych-folk throne come sweeping along in typically haunting and morose manner. Birds That Change Colour (BTCC), a clichéd yet strangely evocative name, are the latest Belgian act bringing their own brand of 60s throwback to the British shores this March. With their debut On Recording the Sun the band set up their tie-dyed shop for the rest of Europe with a surprisingly strong, enjoyable ten track album that packs a lot of bang for the buck.

In keeping with the tradition of the greats who have gone before them, BTCC kick off their work with the hauntingly simple “Stones.” An eerie and simple ode to the nuances of subtle guitar and string work, vocalist, Koen Kohlbacher, creates a lofty ambience that evokes images of a misty early morning wood or lofty sky.

This mixture of high art and emotional imagery continue throughout the album as a whole, none more apparent than in “Playground,” “Oh So Tired” and the 11 plus minute epic “Never Ending First of May,” a track that steals the show from the other ample works. Contrary to this eclectic, borderline gloomy approach to what is generally regarded as bucolic infused neuroticism designed purely to toy with one’s own perception of the universe, there are a number of playfully cheerful songs thrown in for good measure.

“Tales from the Moon,” has all the hall marks of a late Beatles piece of fun, the psychedelic images of distorted cartoons and brightly coloured suits forming almost instantly in the minds of the listeners’, all to the tune of tame drums and the merest hint of sitar. The final track “Oh What a Day” rounds off the album with a Bowie meets Ringo infusion of juvenile story telling that serves perfectly to compliment the rest of the tracks. The guest vocals from Nathalie Delcroix and the pepped up pipes serve as timely reminders that this is a work of art, mainland European art no less and close the work amply, smiles all around.

In all, BTCC have delivered an album that is on the whole enjoyable and fun, two emotions that are very rarely placed together when interpreting modern music. It could be a combination of the wonderfully crafted images, the honorable tributes and throwbacks to the past masters of the genre and the lovingly produced nature of the work that makes On Recording The Sun work. Regardless, only time will tell if it makes an impact abroad.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The band’s official website has tour dates and album availability. Their UK distributors, Jezus Factory Records,, has more details on the March 5th launch.

Review :: ’77 – High Decibels

Dig out your denim

Thrashing drums, whiplash inducing head banging and a sphincter clenching devotion to blistering guitar solos and riffs. Not the usual adjectives reserved for sunny Spain. Shove the paella back in the oven, put away the sunscreen, hard rock n roll is back, lock up your daughters.

By that, of course, the triumphant return of ’77 has occurred. Hailed on M&B as the champions of a dying breed, the cymbal crashing cacophony from Catalonia have produced their follow up to 2010’s 21st Century Rock with a much glossier, slicker produced and still irresistibly thrown back (and up) to the glory days of pub rock.

High Decibels is this highly touted follow up. Less than a sequel and more of a rebranded, better equipped version of the first installment, this album marks a much more professional, intensely matured taste of the band’s talent.  The first difference is the more intensified sense of individual identity. This is hardly surprising. In the eighteen months since their last release, the band have moved from an AC/DC tribute act who played their own material to an act in their own right.

Expanding from their native Spain, this summer sees a continental tour that takes in Germany and Sweden. As profile has risen, so too has the ambition of this four piece outfit. With tracks like “Back Door Man,” “This Girl is on Fire” and “Melting in a Spoon,” a more sinister, edgier vibe is shown here. With lofty ambition comes the same mix of catchy blues riffs, solid solos and the sleaze fuelled harmonies that would make your mother blush.

The near nine minute opus “Promised Land” stands as a testimony to how far this band has come since their debut. Split into multiple parts of changing pace, eclectic imagery and the fundamental three riff hooks that force smiles onto the most maudlin of rock fans, the aspiration of such a project is plain to see. Evoking memories of Bad Company, early KISS and even Led Zeppelin in one song is not something regularly attempted, less carried off. “Promised Land,” however, skirts the line between success and disaster with enough majesty and arrogance that the whole operatic ethos comes off with a plom. The jam session approach, casual riffing and constantly changing tempo and medley is an audio delight.

When 21st Century Rock appeared, there were many who rolled their hypothetical eyes at “another seventies throwback, completely out of touch with the modern music listener.” An unfair but altogether more realistic view of the industry and the chances of such an act. However, defying such criticism and producing a follow up as strong, layered and arguably defining like High Decibels has done nothing short of place ’77 in as strong as position they could hope for. The much cleaner production, bigger, bolder sound and broader audience (the album is available on iTunes) reach will provide an excellent starting point for what should be a big year for the band.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The band’s official website has all relevant information. High Decibels is also available on iTunes:

Album Review :: Bonafide – Something’s Dripping

Strap on your guitar and sober up, we’re going for another spin.

Bonafide - Something's Dripping © Black Lodge

Bar-room lyrics, check. Catchy, riff based songs, check. Long hair, acres of denim and a love of late nights and even later women, almost definitely. This is a list that, to some, may seem an imposing, clichéd inventory needed to write a stereotypical rock band comedy/mockumentary. But rock n roll isn’t anything complicated and this list has stood the test of time, like those who have adhered to it. And so do Bonafide, the latest champions of the down and dirty to come from Sweden’s Nordic shores.

When Sweden is mentioned, most here in the UK would automatically and rather imperialistically think of Volvo and, unfortunately, ABBA. So it is with great relief and pleasure that the latest in a long line of young pretenders to the blood stained, amp shaped throne of hard rock champions comes in the form of Bonafide. Having paid their dues all over Europe and a subsequent UK tour in December, Bonafide bring with them a back catalogue of proven song writing ability, excellent sound and a dedication to an art form that has seen a relative renaissance in the past half decade.

Their 2009 album Something’s Dripping, a wonderfully graphic and balls to the wall title, is a standout combination of a group who are plying their trade in what could be mildly described as a hostile environment. Indeed, it would seem that the fun and lavish rock and roll excesses of the past half century have been long forgotten since 2000 rolled around and the music industry became a place of factory (definitely not Factory Records) produced starlets hell bent on fifteen seconds of fame.

Thus with an album like Something’s Dripping, Bonafide and their contemporaries bring a much needed injection of light heartedness and relaxed throw back into a scene dominated by innocuous glitter and pre-fab. There is nothing more gut-bustingly wonderful than tracks titled like “A Shot of You,” “Butt You Up” and “Fill Your Head with Rock.” All of these songs incidentally are not only excellent hard rock but perfect examples of the musicianship, song writing and top tier production that Bonafide have behind them.

The lyrics, “You think you’re God almighty, like you own the show/ I’m gonna be there laughing at you, you’re Dirt Bound,” taken from the album’s opening track “Dirt Bound” more than exemplify this band’s intentions. Following the hard rock formula of simple riff, throaty vocals and an unrelenting percussion, “Dirt Bound” has the makings of crowd pleasing anthem but also carries with it the grandeur and statement of intent of the band and their sound as a whole.

This is a group of rockers, plain and simple, no frills, toe tapping blues-based music that feels refreshingly new and familiar all at once. The theme of us Vs them is concurrent throughout the whole album, Something’s Dripping’s tracks slipping seamlessly together, one high paced track after the other in a rapid, machine gun paced trip of eleven tracks designed as a protest and assault on anything else you’ve heard this year.

Rebellion is what rock music is all about and this is the finest form. There are no hidden messages, no complicated sub themes or parable like analogies to set fire to message boards across the Internet. You will not be able to play the album in concurrence with classic movies like The Wizard of Oz or Blade Runner because there is nothing needlessly complicated or self indulgently artistic and ambiguous about this music. It’s hard working, hard sounding, excellent rock and roll that everybody can enjoy.

With an array of recent bands trying their hand at this style of music, Airbourne, The Answer, The Treatment and Rival Sons to name four, it seems there is still a contingency of musicians out there willing to make music that echoes a golden age of recent memory. As the world continues to become progressively digital and the medium of music is more accessible, high hopes rest on Bonafide, and the others, to keep us rocking all night and partying every day.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The band’s official website has all tour dates, availability and discography for your viewing pleasure:

Album Review :: Roy Santiago – The Great Pretender

Rock does it Dutch

Roy Santiago - The Great Pretender courtesy of Jezus Factory Records

Multi talented, multi instrumentalist, Roy Santiago offers up his latest album The Great Pretender. Putting a face to what is touted as a thriving scene, Santiago provides an image and sound that satisfies.

The Netherlands is a country that is famous for a great many things. A great footballing nation, great painters and liberal laws on certain smokables. They are not, however, famous within the musical industry for rock acts. It would take even the hardest, most open minded rock fan to think of a world famous, world class rock act, the closest coming in the form of the Van Halen brothers of their eponymous band, although they emigrated at a relatively young age and are American citizens.

It is with great pleasure then, that M&B presents the latest offering from Roy Santiago, a man on a mission to provide quality, and quantity, of top quality music from a country desperate to make its mark.

The Great Pretender therefore is much more than yet another album from a man who seems to be constantly working on one project or another, a contender for the busiest Dutch musician on the planet surely. With an eclectic and mysteriously upbeat tempo, The Great Pretender provides ten tracks of soft, harmonic and passively enjoyable pop rock tracks that will suit a broad spectrum of listeners.

There are no three-chord riffs or thundering drum solos here and those hardcore rockers who are looking for that will be supremely disappointed. Instead a quantative, laid back rock, almost jazz feel is created from Santiago as he whispers his dulcet baritones in your ear, creeping on your shoulder.

Despite there being no real groundbreaking tracks, lyrics or harmonies within the bulk of the album, Roy Santiago is worth a listen merely from a music fans’ perspective of discovering a different country’s approach to an established genre and format.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Santiago’s website can be found here: and MySpace here:

Video :: The Pierces – It Will Not Be Forgotten

Indie femme fatals latest video arrives with a sprinkling of pine fresh scents

The Pierces - You&I © Polydor

With more than a hauntingly familiar nod to the queen of folk/psychedelia rock Stevie Nicks, The Pierces deliver a beautiful, eerie and eco friendly video for their latest single “I Will Not Be Forgotten”

Sisters Catherine and Allison Pierce bring their own brand of new wave infused, indie rock back for a fourth fully fledged album You & I which comes with the rather enviable/laborious subplot of being produced by Coldplay’s Guy Berryman. The single, however, is anything but confusing or ambiguous as the vocal talents, Particularly in their layered, textured ability to enthrall a mighty, choral sound from two very talented women, there is a wonderfully retro-respectful feel to this latest single from the album. Available now for immediate download and viewing pleasure, it comes with a highly touted recommendation.

Check out The Pierces’ tour schedules and further information at their official website:

Promo & Album Review :: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

“nearly makes it, but slips on more than the last hurdle…”

There are big, big boots to fill when it comes to writing a primarily acoustic-guitar based record. Let us not beat about the bush: if you are going down that path, something else is needed to carry the album through it’s ten or dozen or however many tracks without it lagging. Some succeed, most fail. Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s debut full length Last Smoke Before the Sun nearly makes it, but slips on more than the last hurdle.

The release of this full length, today incidentally, was rather anticipated amongst those who have heard of this chap. After the charmingly disparate A Million Miles Out EP of late 2010, featuring the brilliant Atlas Hands, Last Smoke Before the Sun seems a bit too polished, clean and worked on. Don’t get me wrong. I was not expecting Lua or Angeles, but unfortunately comparisons can’t not be made.

The record opens with Pictures, released back in March. For a new listener you’ll think “yeah, it’s nice…”; as an opener, it doesn’t grip you but more dulls the senses with it’s repetition and monotony. For all that though, it is a cute song for all the first-loves and rightly followed by the ‘lovely’ Box of Stones. By the end of this one though, if you’re attention is not wavering and the record isn’t slipping into background noise, 1904 will most certainly do that for you.

That lagging mentioned earlier is rectified by Atlas Hands, a Ben Gibbard-esque take on lost love with a couple of charming lines and cutesy finger picking going on (YouTube). However when this is over the album slips back in to its musical equivalent of trudging through snow until half been picked up by the waiting-to-be-used-in-The-fuckin-OC Shine. At this point, you may as well turn the record off.

So what is there to say? It isn’t a bad record, but Leftwich exhibits an inflexible approach which is exacerbated by most tracks been produced too cleanly. Lyrically the chap is decent and wears his heart on his sleeve but this is not reflected within the instrumentation of the tracks themselves. Which is a real shame. The 2010 and 2011 EPs were spot on, but scaled up to a full length record? No, it doesn’t quite have that something else…

Website | HMV (Signed Copies @ £7.99)

Promo :: The Blanks (UK Tour)

Making A Capella Cool Again

After a successful trip to the UK earlier in the year, The Blanks are back for another short run of shows. Better known as “Ted’s Band” from, hit TV show, Scrubs, the quartet aim to make a capella cool again. Sam Lloyd – who played ‘Ted Buckland’ on the American hospital comedy – Paul F. Perry, George Miserlis and Phillip McNiven deliver a night of music and comedy for all the family.

If four guys singing a capella (with a bit of ukulele and some ‘talking toys’ thrown in for good measure) and performing comedy sketches sounds like your kind of thing, you can catch The Blanks on their remaining UK dates:

  • June 21st – Highlight, Portsmouth
  • Jun2 22nd – Sub89, Reading
  • June 23rd – Moho Live, Manchester
  • June 24th – Sub91, Leicester
  • June 25th – Student Union (Graduation Ball), Dundee
  • June 26th – Apollo23, Glasgow