Album Review :: Nerina Pallot – Year of the Wolf

Pop Rock STILL looks good


Nerina Pallot - Year of the Wolf © Geffen Records

Following from the release of the first single “Put Your Hands Up”, Nerina Pallot’s eagerly anticipated fourth album has at last arrived despite delay. Year of the Wolf follows on from the strong potential that “Put Your Hands Up” promised, the added bonus of the gleaming production values and specifically aimed lyrics and harmonies that only big record labels like Geffen can create.


As previewed in May here on Moon&Back Music, Nerina Pallot has become one of the most underrated although established pop rock femme fatales in the music industry today. With her charismatically soft vocals tempering the often thrashing, almost maelstrom like rock piece behind her, Pallot has established a wonderful balance between delicacy and strength. Two stereotypically stalwart characteristics of supposed “pop rock”, the term itself somewhat of an unhappy juxtaposition, Pallot has the ability, and now track record to prove it, that there is indeed the possibility of breathing some creative and enjoyable life into this dying horse.

It is with a rather cynically smug attitude then that Year of the Wolf fulfils the expectation that the single “Put Your Hands Up” was a rather unfair and typically mass appeal effort of a single and not a fair reflection of the artist. With an almost unrecognisably different sound to the aforementioned single, Year of the Wolf delivers much more of the bitter/sweet, almost folk infused rock soft enough for mothers to enjoy that has been a staple of Pallot’s rise.

With tracks like “Grace,” “All Bets are Off” and “This Will Be Our Year” the agonisingly adorable voice of Pallot is measured, calculated and immaculately executed to make even the most cynical of listeners crack a little smile. Lyrically, Pallot weaves a magical and intricate storytelling ability to the most famous of pop subjects, facing adversity, lost love and the rise and rise of her own stardom. Indeed if such overly sugared topics are ever to be heard then they should be from the confident but still brutally fragile tones of Nerina Pallot.

To justify the tag of pop rock, the riff heavy tracks “I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have” and “I think”, the later even including a purposely “generic electric guitar 1” produced solo that would not sound out of place on a 1970s kids TV show about the future effects of global warming. Yet there seems to be an infectious, strangely satisfying softness to these tracks that make the listener smile once more, tapping their feet to the audio friendly drums and percussion.

Year of the Wolf is the album that fans of Nerina Pallot have been expecting. With nothing vastly different to her previous work, although the artist herself claims that this was her hardest album yet due to the adverse effects of pregnancy, the album is a satisfying, if a little flat addition to her growing discography.

Not to be confused as a classic or genre defining piece of work Year of the Wolf is an album that deserves any credit that it attains. For easy listening, beer garden on a warm afternoon background music then it is doubtful that any other album released this summer will match it. The easy on the ears lyrics and soothingly slow pace of the album as a whole make it the perfect compliment to a British summer by Nerina Pallot arguably the undisputed beauty queen of pop rock.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For tour dates, availability and everything else Nerina Pallot check out her website: http://www.nerinapallot.com

Advanced Single Review :: Nerina Pallot – Put Your Hands Up

Pop Rock has never looked so good


Nerina Pallot - Put Your Hands Up © Geffen

Released on Monday 23rd of May ahead of her much anticipated album Year of the Wolf in June, Nerina Pallot’s new single “Put Your Hands Up” signals the dawn of the summer with a smoky voiced, feel good track to kick off the sunshine months.


Finding the balance between fragility and strength is an often daunting and often mis-cued trait for most recording artists. Aim for delicacy too much and you can come across as soft, border lining on the frankly feckless and far too weak. Go the other way and the tendency for audiences is to bracket you in as an over rambunctious, deliberately obtuse and unnecessary publicity hound. Far too often have these unfair tags and labels been applied to artists who were frankly undeserving of them.

It has thus fallen to another young female vocalist to venture her name, and reputation, into the fray that is pop rock, a genre that has altogether been blighted in recent years as the mediocre stomping ground for the even more mediocre. Indeed it would seem that any artist who is not clad in festering meat or leering at beautiful women from the confines of their Lamborghinis and decadent, mirror surrounded nightclubs, has been sucked down the plughole into the depths of “popular” rock.

With a little trepidation then, Pallot’s latest venture into this market, her fourth fully fledged album since 2001 on her fifth different label in that decade, should be regarded as a whole as the sound of an artist finally getting recognition of her hard work and obvious talents. “Put Your Hands Up” is an enjoyable, toe tapping and more importantly fun song that deserves its place amongst the millions of so called “non music aficionados” iPods and radios. For those listeners perhaps more used to a little more substance from both Pallot and their music then it will not be found here. A little drab and altogether two dimensional, “Put Your Hands Up” feels like the type of song designed merely to get a foot in the door. Whether it does or not remains to be seen of course.

In all the very beautiful Nerina Pallot is a singer/songwriter that deserves much more credit and recognition than she gets. Her adorably brandy flavoured voice and multi-instrumental talents shine much brighter than this single could ever fully demonstrate. But, with the imminent arrival of the fabulous sounding Year of the Wolf delayed until June 13th, it will be interesting and intoxicatingly intriguing to see where this talented woman takes herself and fans next.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Avilibility of the single and album and subsequent tour dates can be found on Nerina’s official website: http://www.nerinapallot.com/

EP Review :: Rival Sons – Rival Sons

Forgotten how to rock? Take two of these and see me in the morning.


Rival Sons

Southern California is a rich and affluent corner of the world when it comes to music. Whether that be from the hazy, psychedelic days of The Byrds, Crosby, Stills & Nash or The Eagles to harder acts like Guns N Roses by way of The Beach Boys, this sun kissed haven of beach bodies, glitzy showbiz phonies and Pacific ocean breezes offers up another fresh bunch of vocalised young men. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are introduced to Rival Sons.


Having spent the past three years paying their dues in the clubs and bars of SoCal, a relatively tradition route into the business that is often overlooked and bypassed in the modern, digital era. This retro, non kitch, throwback is in perfect keeping with the style, harmony and even subject matter of the Rival Sons, a hard rocking, hard working American band with a wonderful sound and penchant for their audience.

Fronted by impassioned Jay Buchanan who’s smooth whiskey vocals sound like their fuelled by passion and velvet smoke, this four piece band are a refreshing breath of fresh Marlborough air in the modern, hard rock era. Their self titled debut EP displays amply what this group can go on to achieve if given the opportunity.

Starting with the high tempo, in your face, full frontal nudity tracks, “Get What’s Coming” and “Torture” lead guitarist Scott Holiday smashes his way into the listener’s head whether they like it or not. With hard hitting, pulsing riffs and hooks, the distortion of his amp and ability to turn a grinding, down and dirty strum into the delicate, almost ghostly solo on “Get What’s Coming” dance eloquently with Buchanan’s vocals.

With a Bonham esque drum intro from skin slammer Michael Miley kicks of the third track “Radio” as Holiday’s fret flicking finger dancing crashes through the walls and into the fore. A percussion heavy track, bassist Robin Everhart provides a temporal spine in which the all out action, wild vocals and at points experimental sound of the track fly recklessly around his solid, steady performance.

In quiet contrast, “Sacred Tongue” is an acoustic, southern charmed song that oozes the passion and ability that Rival Sons possess. This, coupled with the crescendo bursting, ear drum thrashing final tracks “Sleepwalker” and “Soul” stand as a considerable, comprisable and compelling introduction to this classic rock inspired four piece.

There is wonderfully energetic and inspiring comparisons to classic and hard rock giants of a by gone era to be found in the music of Rival Sons. Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and even the cockney charm of Thunder can be heard in their music. As the media proclaims that Rock is dead and pop is the new Queen(?) it is warming and compelling to know that there are still artists out there unashamed to grab a beer, hook up a stack and let her rip. Rival Sons will be touring with Judas Priest on their UK tour throughout July.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Tour dates, info and album availability are available at the band’s official website: www.rivalsons.com

Promo :: Austin Lucas UK/European Tour

After the release of A New Home In The Old World, Austin Lucas is heading out to tour the UK and Europe once again. I know for a fact that Austin loves playing European shows, so anyone who heads to one of these is in for a treat. Joining Austin on all of the below dates is Digger Barnes. A regular member of Chuck Ragan’s band, Barnes has also released his own solo material in the form of Time Has Come and a two 7″ records.

Having seen Austin live a couple of times, I know that you won’t walk away disappointed. So please go and check out a show if he’s playing near you. The UK dates are a little sparse, but I know he’d do more if he could. Check out the dates below.


May

3rd –  Hannover @ Chez Heinz
4th – Wiesbaden @ Schlachthof
5th – Aachen @ AZ
6th – Brighton @ Prince Albert
7th – Leeds @ Santiago’s
8th – Brixton @ Windmill
9th – Paris @ Espace B
10th –  Laussane, CH @ Espace Autogere
11th – Freiburg @ Swamp
12th – Stuttgart – Club Zwölfzehn
13th – Cologne @ Underground
14th –  Helsinki @ Bar Loose
15th – Berlin @ Lovelite
16th –  Schweinfurt @ Alter Stattbahnhof
17th –  Dresden @ Ostpol
18th –  A Vienna – Fluc Wanne
19th –  Budapest @ A38
20th – Prague @ Studio Rubin
21st – Chemnitz @ Pyro Catharsis
22nd – Bremen @ G18
23rd – Hamburg @ Molotow

It’ll be a shame if you can’t make it. If only he knew two awesome guys that could put together a little ‘tour documentary’ for those three UK dates…

Advanced Album Review :: Delta Maid – Outside Looking In

Prepare yourselves for the next big Blues thing


Delta Maid

Delta Maid

Having appeared here recently on Moon & Back Music with a unique and enchanting cover of The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” the anthem of a thousand misspent hours on FIFA 11! She is, of course much more than simply a popularity jockey, much, much more. In fact she could very well be one of the biggest indie acts in Britain before the year is at an end.


The monumentally strong positive vibe around Delta Maid is something that is emphatically enjoyable and refreshing in the modern era of music. Hailing from the musically rich shores of the Mersey in Liverpool, there must be something in the water there, this young, blonde, blues-woman has been touring the length and breadth of the country with her vivaciously jolly, upbeat and most importantly traditional take on delta and blues rock.

So, with great pleasure, M&B can present an advanced preview of her upcoming debut album, Outside Looking In released on the 9th of May. Acting as what will surely be a massive springboard for the commercial success of this young artist, Outside Looking In is fine example of what, how, where, why and when a debut album of a musically conscious act should release in this topsy-turvy world of music.

A country and blues album first and foremost, the album debuts with “Broken Branches,” a softly spoken, lightly finger plucked blues based track that shines a wonderfully warm and welcoming summer’s glow on the rest of the album. The southpaw, southern charms of Delta continue through “Spend a Little Time,” “Running on Empty” and “All I Dreamed” each a masterfully crafted arc of mild bourbon flavoured country that can’t help but make even the hardest of listener’s foot tap gently.

The titular track acts as vague interval between the separate parts of the album, a track very much in the vein of Patsy Cline. By her own admission, Delta is heavily influenced by Cline and her ilk, a fact that is very prominent throughout the duration the album. Although many have attempted to recreate the soulfully rich and lamentably spiritual qualities of the rockabilly and honky-tonk queen, very few have ever succeeded. Of course it would be foolish to say that Delta Maid is the next in line to the throne but it would not be a far stretch of imagination to see it perhaps in the future.

A wonderful boiling pot of variance, both in tempo and genre, Outside Looking In is thirteen tracks of diverse, lovingly crafted songs that seemingly offers a great deal to a lot of people. From the high tempo, borderline indie pop tracks like “Of My Own” and “Back the Last Horse,” Pretenders fans will find great comfort and pleasure in these electrocuted, beat intensive tracks.

In comparison, Delta Maid breaks the hearts of the listeners, quite literally with the soul founded, almost scarring tragedies like “Dance With my Broken Heart.” “Footprints” also follows in this vein, her musical and vocal range abilities more than displayed and vaunted for the benefit of her audience.

In all Outside Looking In is an album of great depth and talent. This, in theory, should act as nothing more than accelerating catalysts for a young woman on the cusp of a fabulous career. As is often the case, however, this may not in fact BE the case. With the frankly tempest like atmosphere that surrounds the industry at the moment, a fine line exists between success and failure, regardless of ability. Let us all hope then that Delta Maid is a name that will be more than welcomed in venues radios and downloads for many years to come.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Outside Looking In is availible from the 9th of May, 2011. Check out Delta’s official site for furtehr details, touring dates etc : http://www.myspace.com/deltamaid

EP Review :: White House Band – The Stimulus Package

A hardened New York Rapcore group try to usher in a new era for a long forgotten genre.


The White House Band

It would seem that there has been a generation that has gone without a recognizable, enjoyable and musically talented rapcore and rap metal band. Where in the early nineties these bands were aplenty, Cyprus Hill and Rage Against the Machine were the industry leaders, now it would appear the market is more focused on either side of the fence, rap or metal. Hoping to buck this trend are White House Band who have released their latest EP The Stimulus Package


Back in the hazy, long gone days of the early 1990s and beyond, the world of popular music was vastly changing. Long gone were the pseudo androgynous bands of the new romantics and in their place was a much more focused, genre defining series of acts that cared little for transposing themselves across multimedia formats. The girl and boy groups were still in their infancy, hard rock had gone the way of the dodo, all to the tune of Bryan Adam’s caterwauling and grunge was the new everything.

It is no surprise then that with the emerging hip hop scene, a fiery and charged form of music that was still arguably purist, far from the overproduced “Fergulicious” nightmare it has become today. Bands such as Cyprus Hill, Rage Against the Machine and Body Count found their voice and the willing ears of millions around the globe in the form of blistering, hard guitar riffs to the tune of the deeply moving, hard lesson lyrics of traditional rappers.

And so it came to pass that this form of musical protest, a classic being Body Count’s more than controversial “Cop Killer”, was quietened. Not silenced of course but merely curtailed, washed up in the wave of highly pristine, shiny hip hop made for the people not by the people but how the people were viewed from the glistening towers of L.A record labels.

So, with a guaranteed format and a glaring hole in the market, White House Band bring a formidable arsenal into battle. With this, their second major EP release, The Stimulus Package invites the listener into a hardened, head thrashing world that it perhaps had forgotten all about.

The opening tracks, “Wassup” and “Grown Ups” are traditional rapcore numbers, their pounding lyrics, potent and dangerously realistic, exalted above thrashing drums of Elder Merchant and lighting guitar of Fernando Martinez. David Beats, the gravel voiced, attitude ladened vocalist continues his tour de force throughout the six tracks of the album with continual force, conviction and passion that had come to be expected of a band plying their trade in both the modern industry and this genre in particular.

One particular highlight of the EP comes in the form of the fourth track, “That’s My Ish”. Forming a cerebral bond throught the six minute musical mayhem, the talents of the band are clearly placed on display as being viciously raw and delightfully stripped down to basics. Merchant’s ear shattering drum solo half way through make the listeners weep, all in the best way of course. His percussion partner, Corey Lonas’ obvious engineering talents backstage are also brought to the fore during this track, his bass and tempo at the heart of the whole song’s focus.

In all the EP is a very strong, powerful statement of musical intent, a refreshingly arrogant taste of a music genre that has for too long remained stagnant and neglected. The White House Band have every potential to be part of a new wave of rapcore and rap metal acts, the vital components of musical talent and obvious passion being well and truly put in place, if the genre should decide to experience a certain renaissance. With trouble in the middle east, a Conservative government in Downing Street and the coat tails of a recession, the world is not that different from the glory days of the aforementioned big bands. Who knows.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website for download/purchase details: http://thewhitehouseband.net

Album Review :: Japanese Fighting Fish – Just Before we go MAD

With their individual take on a Cuban and metal infusion, the latest album from JFF arrives avec pleasure.


Japanese Fighting Fish

Capturing a sound that is individually unique whilst still retaining the familiarity of a thousand artists that have gone before is the ultimate goal for the modern band. It is a welcome refreshment then to hear Japanese Fighting Fish (JFF) brand new album, Just Before we go MAD. Combining the harder edged harmonics of rock/metal and mild punk with a swarthy latin flavour, this four piece outfit re-announce their presence in spectacular form.


Formed as a four piece group by the charismatic frontman Karlost, there is a wonderful air of mystery and fantastic fantasy about JFF. Continually describing their musical career as a journey of an epic scale that even Tolkien would be proud of, this group of musical aficionados backs up the contemporary, post, post modern approach to song writing and performance with a credible and overtly talented execution.

Kicking off Just Before we go MAD are two songs that could cruelly be described only as album filler material. Indeed there is nothing necessarily wrong or poor about “Johnny Sideways” and “Jesta” they just, unfortunately lack a reflective boost that JFF fans will be more than familiar with. The album really kicks into gear with “Dirty Wilson”, the third track. The relentless drum beat of the mysteriously titled Aidsan, “Dirty Wilson” harkens back to the bleak yet strangely compelling early 90s of Nirvana and more accurately Pearl Jam. Indeed this song would not feel out of place on an album such as Ten, the resounding, overall sound of the piece echoing with the tormented vocals of Karlost in a trendy, borderline depressing salsa.

This throwback to the plaid shirt clad, ripped jeans era of humanity’s music that was vaguely called grunge continues throughout the rest of the album. “Baltic Whistler” and “Day One” are further examples of this. With their melodic and methodical construction, the Latin infusion of the band’s roots becomes apparent further and further down the track list.

Although uniquely their own, it cannot be denied that Just Before we go MAD does have a tendency to slip into repetition. The earlier tracks have a much more vibrant, individually crafted Latin infusion in their rock/punk/metal roots. This, however, does not last, as the tracks build up, of which there is a staggering ten, then the album slips into a rather bog standard, almost hackneyed post grunge impersonation. It is beautifully created and the productions values are evidently high but the overall sensation that a ten track album feels like four or five tracks too many.

The closing song “Sa La Lar” acts as the perfect encompassment of the album as a whole. With a soft, melodic and soothing electric guitar that denotes just the faintest sense of dread and downward spiralling combined with beautiful choir like backing vocals. This is somewhat compromised during the middle crescendo of the track as it descends into a stereotypically, almost Nu Metal obvious vein of turgid regurgitation.

Indeed Just Before we go MAD is a credible and wholly enjoyable album. It is not, however, a classic and perhaps not entirely reflective of the talent that Japanese Fighting Fish are entirely capable of.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Tour dates, album information and general band stuff can be found on their official website: http://www.japanesefightingfish.co.uk

Advanced Single Review :: Tom Williams and The Boat – Get Older

The debut single from the debut album of Britain’s latest alt pop/rock champions prepares to sprout its wings and soar.


Tom Williams & The Boat

Capturing a violent and deeply malevolent sense of dread with indefatigable talent comes Tom Williams and The Boat’s first single from their upcoming album. “Get Older” is a track in which frustration and anger capture a country voice, indeed the sound of a love/hate relationship has never quite had its jugular torn out so violently.


Taking a much more numerous and now, sadly, overlooked approach to rock and alternative pop, Tom Williams and The Boat consists of a number of artists who contribute to the much bigger and overall huge sound of a band that is screaming for a chance. Having spent the last twelve months touring and receiving “critical” acclaim from the likes of Zane Lowe and other turgid spinners on the BBC, this band seem set for a major spike in popularity when their debut album Too Slow out on February 21st hits the general public.

As for the debut single from the album, “Get Older” is a stomping juggernaut of alternative rock. With the menacing vocals of Tom himself combined with a rapturous backing “orchestra”, the thumping drum beat of an unrelenting bass drum acts as a high octane pulse to this lament for lost love. The haunting acoustic guitars and fiddles ghost around the track, their spiritually lost sense of wonder acting as a fragile dance partner to Williams’ rasping vocals as the sad story of the play is acted out in a savage ballet.

In all as a debut, “Get Older” is as strong an effort as any rock and alternative pop act could produce in the current climate. Their popularity is established with various tours, festival dates and the aforementioned BBC radio treatment. It would seem that Tom Williams and The Boat have a prime opportunity on which to build themselves up and find a voice amongst the shouting.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The band’s debut album is released for download on February 21st, physical copies 28th February. More info can be found at their website: http://www.tomwilliamsandtheboat.co.uk/

Advanced Single Review :: Lanu – Beautiful Trash

Off the cuff Australian pop gears itself up to cheer up our miserable February.


Lanu

Lanu - Beatiful Trash © TruThoughts

Combining an immaculately clean production and bouncing, happy go lucky tempo, the latest single from Lanu and first from an upcoming album, “Beautiful Trash” is about to descend on the public. Featuring the vocal talents of Australian Megan Washington, this appears to be a good omen for the previously mentioned album, Her 12 Faces’ set for release later this year.


The brainchild of producer and guitarist Lance Ferguson, the mastermind between the Australian band The Bamboos, this solo project sees the combination of Ferguson and the lead vocalist of The Bamboos Megan Washington. This combination of talented young Australians has created a wonderfully eclectic mixture of funky, jolly pop that tries not to take itself or life in general too seriously.

A toe tapping, plodding melody combined with Washington’s wispy and enchanting vocals, “Beautiful Trash” feels more like a throwback to the carefree, hopeful days of 90s summer rock. Drawing comparisons to work like Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha”, “How Bizarre” by OMC and more recently Goldenhorse’s “Out of the Moon” it is thoroughly pleasant to hear such an upbeat and fragrant song such as this during the darkened, grim months of a British winter.

Due for release on the 7th of February, “Beautiful Trash” is a significant and enjoyable forerunner for Lanu’s upcoming album. As a strong outing, hopes and expectations are now high for these Australian fun runners.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The single goes on sale on the 7th of February. More details can be found on Lanu’s official site: http://www.lanu.com.au/

Now Streaming :: Social Distortion – Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes

Social Distortion have been entertaining punk fans for years with their catchy tales of misanthropy. The band’s seventh studio album, Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, is being released through Epitaph Records next Monday (Jan. 17th), but you can listen to it right now!

Just click on the SoundCloud player below.

Social Distortion – Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes by Epitaph Records