Album Review :: Jamiroquai – Rock Dust Light Star

Jamiroquai have been around for 18 years and have produced some dancefloor classics. Now, they are back after a five year break but does ‘Rock Dust Light Star’ live up to any expectations we might have had after their previous albums?

Jamiroquai’s music has rarely fallen outside the “acid-funk” genre that best describes their sound and has generally been a hit across the board with young and old listeners alike. The changing faces of the collaborators have always been fronted by the effervescent Jay Kay and his outlandish hats. It has been argued that Jay Kay is best known for those hats, his love of fast cars and his penchant for famous (or not so) women, however, in terms of his music, there’s no denying there’s some clear songwriting ability, knowledge of how to seduce people with some of the best bass riffs around and some sustainable funk that’s maintained the band’s presence in the music industry for almost 2 decades.

Rock Dust Light Star has echoes of early 80’s disco combined with the synthesisers and technological tricks of today’s electric generation. Jay Kay’s vocal is, as always, up to scratch and the lyrics are (mostly) imaginative and interesting.

The majority of this album, the 7th for Jamiroquai, has a Saturday night pre-drinks vibe with a whiff of a lazy Sunday afternoon; a good album for the weekend. It’s the kind of album that may grace the Radio 2 playlist or an ’easy-listening for the over 30’s’ album but you’ll probably hear a track or two track on Radio 1 or have seen Jay Kay’s (awkward – after insulting the show’s judges) performance of “White Knuckle Ride” on the X Factor. All things considered, Jamiroquai seem to know how to create music for the masses and are understated but seemingly popular, with this album debuting at number 7 in the UK album chart.

After listening to the album a few times, the band have certainly found comfort in the familiar disco-ball funk that we would expect from them, with songs such as ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and ‘All Good In The Hood’ combining funky bass-riffs, falsetto vocals and sultry saxophones but unfortunately, songs such as ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Never Gonna Be Another’, which stray from the usual dance-material and creep into the clichéd-pop category , fall short of the mark.

The opening and end of the album are good, with catchy songs and memorable instrumentals but there is a slight dip in the middle. Jay Kay singing cheesey ballads isn’t something I would expect and for me, doesn’t work, but the typical Jamiroquai funk will make me listen to the album, just not on repeat.

Perhaps it’s time, after 18 years, for the funk-veterans to move over and let new dubstep and electro bands take over the dancefloor? [J]

Thanks to Mercury Music for sending the album for review.

http://jamiroquai.co.uk/

Album Review :: The Black Keys – Brothers

American blues rockers delight fans and critics alike with their latest offering in what is set to be a breakout year.


The Black Keys

The Black Keys - Brothers © Nonesuch

With a unique and groundbreaking approach to rock music, The Black Keys have been making a name for themselves since their formation in 2001. Now, with the release of their sixth studio album Brothers, the Ohio due of Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney team with notable producer Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley to deliver what could potentially be the climax of their musical and artistic opus.


Formed in Akron, Ohio, a city that notes Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde and the smooth talking, moustached master Clark Gable, The Black Keys are predominantly a blues and indie rock band who take most of their inspiration from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. From their formation in 2001 and with their breakout album Attack & Release in 2008, Auerbach and Carney have steadily readied a loyal fan base that includes prominent rockers Robert Plant and Billy Gibbons. The band have also found notable fame for a number of their songs appearing in various forms of the media, the video game GTA IV and numerous TV shows in the states sampling their work. In all, The Black Keys seem to have hit their stride and are not about to take their foot off of the pedal.

Continuing effectively where they left off in 2008, Brothers has been described by critics and the band alike as feeling the most natural sounding of the group’s albums to date. At a whopping fifteen tracks, sixteen if the vinyl is bought or the track is downloaded via the band’s website, there is certainly a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to material. Opening with the lumbering “Everlasting Light”, a more than Zeppelin esque that pays a great tribute to the old delta blues and sounds like it has been put through the rusty engine of an old Mid West tractor, the album continues this strong opening offering with “Next Girl” and “Tighten Up” the later being the album’s first single.

It is not until the fifth track of the album, however, with “She’s Long Gone” that the whole work as a piece of musical and artist ability really tarts to pick up pace. This track, with Auerbach’s guitar work bleeding through the amps and speakers like the ghost of a tormented old bluesman that the true ability of this duo is really put on show. Once again a very early seventies Zeppelin feel about the song, with its grainy production and whaling vocals, which of course can be no bad thing.  This feel and moping blues laments are continued with “Ten Cent Pistol” “I’m Not the One” and “Sinister Kid” all bring the ambiance and general tone and feel of the album alive, filling it and the listener with a heartfelt confidence and attachment to the band.

Rounding out the blues behemoth is the much slower, almost ballad like “These Days”. A wonderfully crafted slow number that perfectly compliments the rest of the album, Auerbach’s sleepy vocals coupled with his whining guitar and Carney’s downtrodden drumming make the listener feel like they are back on the bayou, a fishing line tied to your toe and a straw hat resting over your face to cover you from the sun. The imagery is evocative and intensely intoxicating, a tribute no less to the master craftsmen of the band.

In all Brothers is a very enjoyable and listenable album, one which is bound to be the band’s biggest hit to date and propel them into a much wider sitting audience, an accolade they most definitely deserve. Debuting with strong download and sales, the album debuting at number three in the states alone, Brothers is a fine introductory, if a little repetitive, example of The Black Keys work.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website for tour dates, profiles, discography and news: http://www.theblackkeys.com

Promo & Advance Review :: Sound of Guns – What Came From Fire

…as British as Wimbledon but with more balls (pun not intended)

Just over a month ago I received an album dictating the future of British rock. It’s scratchy guitar refrains, sing-along chants and raw sound draw on the best of 50 years of British rock and punk. We’re talking The Kinks mixed with The Clash, Pistols with Verve, Oasis with The Rolling Stones. The album is called What Came From Fire, it’s by Sound of Guns, and it’s released on the 28th.

For big-sounding indie-rock anthems, nothing has come so refreshing since Whatever People Say I Am… The raw energy displayed throughout the What Came From Fire has justifiably earned Sound of Guns massive fans like Steve Lamacq and Zane Lowe. It’s quality cannot be underestimated: here’s a band that know exactly what they want to do and how they want to do it.

There aint much complex stuff going on here: it’s distorted riffs and power chords, simple bass licks and pounding drums pretty much throughout. Opening two tracks Architects and Alcatraz provide a strong back-bone for the rest of the album that grabs you by not by the ears but whole face and demands a listen. Their punky guitar just shouts out at you “turn me up”, which you obligingly do. Simply, if you’re stuck in traffic with this on, you’re gonna annoy alot of fuckin people.

The album was produced by Chris Potter (Verve, U2) and it shows a bit too much at times. 106 (Still The Words) slows the pace too much with prog-sounding synthy guitairs. Ballad-esque Starts With An End sounds like a History rip-off and, being the final track, taints the album and leaves a depressing and unfortunate after-taste. But, if there’s one thing both tracks shows it’s potential and confidence to explore.

Final verdict time then: for a debut album, Sound of Guns’ What Came From Fire is strong. Very strong. It’s raw, heartfelt, stadium rock. It’s as British as Wimbledon but with more balls (pun not intended). It’s lineage and influences are strong and it’s confidence is felt. Simply, this is a band you’re not going to be able to ignore for much longer.


http://www.myspace.com/soundofguns

Sound Of Guns – Alcatraz

Promo & Advance Review :: Sean Rowe – ‘Magic’

Sean Rowe, by James Robinson. Seanrowe.net

Sean Rowe, by James Robinson. Seanrowe.net

Rustic, natural, deep: Sean Rowe’s ‘Magic’ is released 25th May.

Sean Rowe hails from Albany, NY. His debut album ‘Magic’ was released in the US late last year and is set for release to the UK market on the 25th May. It is no surprise that he has been writing and performing since the age of thirteen: his songs have that richness and depth that tends to be reserved for more established artists.

The depth of Rowe’s musical talent resides in both his lyrics and their delivery. Themes for his songs can be seen as standard – love, life, the past (‘The Long Haul”, “Wet”), the natural wilderness. But it’s the rough, homespun yarns of unpolished lyrics which elevates his writing above many other singer-songwriters. Rowe rasps “You are nothing but the fragrance of an old dream / but that was just time playing tricks on my mind” on opener “Surpise”, which has similar melodies and progression to Springsteen’s “The River”.

Rowe’s delivery lies somewhere between Tom Waits and Bonnie Prince Billy: rough and rasping but with a painful tenderness. Simple melodies are enhanced by bluesy-folk guitar which creates something a bit more than minimalist in tracks such “Time to Think” and “Old Black Dodge” and very near to country-rock with “Jonathan” and “Wrong Side of the Bed”.

‘Magic’ is a strong debut album from a clearly talented musician with a very distinct delivery. Whilst mainstream success is clearly not something ‘Magic’ would achieve, it is certainly an album that deserves attention if your tastes are even slightly folk or blues orientated.


MySpace | Sean Rowe.net

Album Review :: Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its original release, Ronnie James Dio’s Black Sabbath debut gets the deluxe and double disk treatment.


Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell © Universal Music

With the 30th anniversary of its release having just passed, Black Sabbath’s seminal 1980 album Heaven and Hell is treated to a deluxe edition revamp from good folks at Universal Music. The album, the first since the unceremonious firing of charismatic front man Ozzy Osbourne, the Birmingham metal gods produce a stand up early 80s metal masterpiece despite the numerous trials and tribulations each of the members were suffering through at the time.


Replacing a front man is never an easy task for anybody to achieve. It is even more difficult when the man you are replacing is Ozzy Osbourne, the self styled Prince of Darkness and general, all round hell raiser extraordinaire. This was the task that befell seminal second division screamer Ronnie James Dio as he was approached in 1979 to replace Osbourne, the departure the result of his growing unreliability mainly put down to his excessive substance and alcohol abuse, a mighty task considering the band as a whole were no angels in that field anyway. Combined with remaining original members Tony Iommi on guitars, Geezer Butler on bass, Bill Ward on drums and the inclusion of Geoff Nichols on keyboards, Black Sabbath entered the 1980s seeking some retribution and a fresh start from their rather stagnant act that had plagued them for much of the 1970s, their initial success having worn off a long time previous.

Heaven and Hell is very much a heavy metal album, not surprising coming form one of the genres biggest and best pioneers. Debuting in 1980 it should be noted that of the three bands who sought the heavy metal sound that is known now, the others being Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, Sabbath always considered themselves the hardest and, arguably, darkest, certainly from a lyrical point of view. Songs like “Lady Evil” and “Neon Knights” are classic sounding Sabbath numbers, Iommi’s dark and heavy riffing combined with the distinctly different approach to singing provided by Dio make the whole album gel together nicely, percussion is on course as ever from Sabbath, Butler’s blistering bass not letting up at all and the thrashing of Ward’s drumming providing the spine on which the whole outfit projects from. Ward in 1980 was arguably one of the best rock and metal drummers in the world, a feat he is not often considered for due to what can only be described as his extra curricular activities off, and sometimes on, stage.

The true beauty of Heaven and Hell lies in the band’s ability in versatility. As a genre, heavy metal especially in its infancy is not often citied for such things as dynamic versatility but Sabbath are more than capable of breaking tradition. At the dawn of the decade the so called New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was introducing bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, bands who took heavy metal in a much more epic direction, big, arena sized songs and huge scoped lyrics that spoke of legends and myths and creatures of the night. No longer would metal be reserved to the dank and rather small, graveyard sized topics, fans wanted their metal large and they were happily fed it. It is therefore pleasant to hear songs like “Wishing Well” and “Children of the Sea”, songs that hold a much more grandous sense of scale, the latter being inspiration for Iron Maiden’s “Children of the Damned” from 1982s Number of the Beast.

Included in the deluxe re-issue of Heaven and Hell is a bonus disk featuring live editions of the more popular songs from the album. Spanning across different performances, all from 1980, it should be important to note that out of the seven additional tracks, two of which are “Heaven and Hell”, another two tracks are “Children of the Sea” making the thought that although this deluxe edition of the album is not quite as full as previously thought. Although the production has been stepped up, cleaning the songs which are now three decades old, the fact that Sabbath are pumping this and the rest of the Dio years albums seems to be a rather callous money making scheme from Dio who is and has been reportedly dying for the past decade it would seem. None the less, Heaven and Hell is a worthy album of metal standing that should be enjoyed by fans.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The album is on general release in all major record shops and check out the band’s official website: www.blacksabbath.com

Lauren Pritchard :: The Jackson Sessions EP, out 03/5/10

Lauren Pritchard :: The Jackson Sessions EPWith a voice as sensual and as warming as Jack Daniel’s (both from Tennessee incidentally), Lauren Pritchard’s debut EP ‘The Jackson Sessions’ comes out on 3rd May on legendary Island Records.

The video for EP opener ‘When The Night Kills the Day‘ has been up on Moon & Back for a good while now. The unconventional addition of a steincourt piano (owned by co-writer Ed Harcourt) adds a hauntingly eery sound to the track whilst all other  instrumentation is provided by non other than Marcus Mumford and Ted Dwaine of fellow-Islanders Mumford & Sons. Intimate and personal lyrics add a delicacy which Pritchard playfully flits around with, demonstrating a exquisite talent which we just can’t get enough of.

The three other tracks on the EP (‘Stuck’, ‘No Way’, and ‘Bad Time To Fall’) display standard album-quality material with slightly-less production by Eg White, letting a rougher edge come into Lauren’s voice.

As if a recommendation from Moon & Back was not enough, Pritchard has also gone and bagged herself a guest-performance slot with Paul Weller at his In Concert performance on Radio 2 on April 15th and a slot at the will-be-big MFlow Lauch Event on April 14th – no simple feat really.


More info. and purchase links for The Jackson Sessions EP can be found at http://www.myspace.com/laurenpritchardmusic

Get The Jackson Sessions EP at MFlow here http://www.mflow.com/laurenpritchard/

Advance Album Review :: Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

Quite possibly the worst title for an album ever


This is 4th studio album from the Minneapolis boys, and I have to say I find the artwork for the album cover quite bizarre, looking more like the E.P of a local pop-punk band than that of a dominant band in the pop-punk/rock scene.

The album starts with the track “Worker Bee” which seems to match the albums title and artwork, it doesn’t make sense to me that a band such as MCS would progress into a mature band throughout their first three studio instalments, then seem to go full circle, with songs, bar the squeaky clean production, sound like a band just finding their sound.
The initial track is not, unfortunately, a one off lapse in this otherwise great bands musical skill. As the album continues the songs don’t seem to get any more engaging, these aren’t bad songs, they’re very nice little pop songs, but there is something missing. It seems the MCS guys have lost the hard edge that, combined with their polished pop groove, made them stand out from the crowd.
Her Words Destroyed My Planet is the first single off this record, and it’s a good choice, definitely one of the stronger songs, with singer Justin Pierre giving the vocal melody just the right amount of angst.
The following track “Disappear see’s the band trying to keep hold of their old edge, and to be fair, it works quite well, it’s a dark, slick, catchy tune reminiscent of their “I am the Movie” days, it doesn’t quite match up to songs like “Mary Without Sound” but it’s on the right lines.
“History Lesson” and “Stand Too Close” are a good duo for the mid-point of this 12 track L.P: they both feature an acoustic guitar track, which might be something the band should incorporate more for their music, as these two tracks are the strongest out of the dozen.
Unfortunately, the saviour of these is short lived, with the song “Pulp Fiction” giving clear clarification to my previous statement of the band acting more like a cheesy local pop-punk band. Though catchy, it isn’t very engaging and would find it hard to believe that any long standing fan would agree with the direction the band has taken. This album may draw in a much younger crowd, a new batch of MCS fans, but this is done at the risk of losing a large percentage of their original following.
The rest of the album follows in a similar vein to that of the previous track: not BAD songs as such, but nothing outstanding or in anyway engaging. It seems Motion City Soundtrack’s move to Columbia Records was a bad idea, and even lyrical references to Veronica Mars and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time can’t save this album from mediocrity. Now I’m off to save Hyrule and beat myself off over pictures of Kirsten Bell.

Promo & Advance Album Review :: ArdentJohn – On The Wire

To label ArdentJohn as another indie-folk band is similar to calling the Bible a book: it kind of misses the point…by a fairly long shot.

I can’t remember the last record that clocked up so many plays within the first week as On the Wire has – charming, delicate, honest and with a subtle melancholic undertone, it’s innocently touching and provocative. ArdentJohn’s debut, then, is more than a record – it’s a slither of life’s experiences documented in an imaginative and skilful way.

It’s no surprise to find out that the band, established on the Isle of Bute and now based in Edinburgh, retreated to a cottage by the shores of Loch Fyne for the album: the pureness and idyllic setting shines through on all the tracks. Generally it sounds rough around the edges with certainly not too much time spent on production; but the record is all the better for this.

Vocalist (Kieron) Mason confidently purrs out the lyrics with a hint of accent, flirting with the instrumentation of the six-piece. Immediate comparisons would be drawn with Belle & Sebastian and Broken Records, but ArdentJohn never achieve the same level of consciousness within the music – each track flows easily and just ‘is’ as opposed to being ‘worked on’.

Album highlights are suitably interspersed: ‘Where Paths Lead’ is an (almost) epic build-up of ‘I want you, I need you; can’t you see?’ over a suitably flitting finger-pick; ‘Home‘ follows with it’s melodious into and verses and heart-wrenching lyrics; ‘Fleeting Moments‘ has an awesomely summer feel to it you’ll be picking it out specifically come July and ‘One Step Behind‘ is a welcoming, faster-paced and slightly heavier song that stands out due more to this than anything.

Overall, there are some gems of songs presented on On The Wire which show a group of strong talents. With a sharp ear for cute melodies and honest lyrics, ArdentJohn have released a debut album that promises much more to come in the future from a band who are certainly one to check out.


MySpace | LastFM

Check out ArdentJohn @ a live show below

8th Jan – London – Wilmington Arms (Single Launch)
23rd Jan – Edinburgh – The Electric Circus (Album Launch)
27th Jan – Glasgow – Pivo Pivo
29th Jan – Manchester – Dry Bar
30th Jan – London – Bull & Gate (Album Launch)
16th Feb – Edinburgh – Bongo Club
18th Feb – London – The Lexington

Advance Album Review :: Lostprophets, The Betrayed

Big riffs, pounding beats and sing-along shout-outs are what we’ve come to expect from Welsh-rockers Lostprophets. Their new album, The Betrayed, boasts all these but with an added extra zest of seriousness.

Check out our exclusive interview with Mike Lewis

The progression from previous albums is similar to switching from, say, a Roger Moore-era James Bond to a Bourne film – they’re both of the same genre and built on the same framework, but they’re pretty fuckin different. So, what to expect from The Betrayal? Raw, gritty riffs, mosh-pit hardcore hooks, epic pop-rock sing-alongs and a vault of potential singles.

Heavier-orientated fans will appreciate [Lee] Gaze’s ridiculous riffs and  on tracks like Dstryr / Dstryr and first single It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here, whilst those of you with fonder memories of Goodbye Tonight will appreciate the standard and expected softer moments of the album: Where We Belong and A Better Nothing perhaps.

Lyrically, The Betrayed is standard and none-the-worse for it. The only niggle with this is the contrast in the musical and lyrical progressions. Saying that though, they are simple and accessible and because of that the album will be more attractive to more listeners than some wanky pretentious cryptic clues.

Closing the The Betrayed is the highlight: The Light That Burns Twice As Bright. This epic and anthemic track will leave you needing a new set of speakers as the band completely take things to another level with an atmosphere of dark and epic sincerity pounded via a build-up to heavy distortion and the standard sing-along.


The Betrayed is released on 18/01/2010. Pre-order below

Lostprophets | HMV | Play

Promo, Advance Album Review :: Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon

Front-man of avant-garde rock outfit The Guillemots, Fyfe Dangerfield, has embarked on a solo adventure. His debut album, Fly Yellow Moon, is a mixture of the epic, anthem sing-alongs you’d expect whilst interspersed with more delicate songs.

Fly Yellow Moon is a strong solo album cementing Dangerfield’s reputation as an all-round experimentalist and fabulous musician, drawing on sounds from the Manic’s to Beirut and Nick Drake all mixed in with the quirkiness and uniqueness of Fyfe Dangerfield.


Opening the record is the first single, When You Walk in the Room: three minutes of summer sounding, festival-friendly pop. Not everybody’s taste though will be the outro but this is easily overlooked as So Brand New, the opening line giving the album it’s title, starts and Dangerfield exhibits a pitch-perfect, quintessentially English singer-songwriter sound reminiscent of the aforementioned Drake and John Martyn.

Barricades slows the tone down with delicate piano chords similar to very early Coldplay and conjures images of festivals and easy times. Mid-way through Dangerfield is accompanied by a selection of strings, demonstrating further his classical background, eventually tailing off to the sounds of children playing and thus the start of High on the Tide, after which the record (admittedly a little thankfully) picks up pace with Faster Than The Setting Sun.

Next is the record’s acoustic highlight: Livewire. A simple finger-pick of four chords and easy lyrics create a lovely late-summer’s evening tone; sadly, this pleasant feeling is changed by the heavier Firebird. Still, the musicianship and poetry is exceptional and despite previous lighter tones, the album still doesn’t drag or feel padded.

She Needs Me, Don’t Be Shy (listen and just try not to hear Three Hours) and Any Direction finish the album off neatly, if a little impersonally.

Overall Fly Yellow Moon is a strong, independent album that exhibits the adaptability of Dangerfield yet, despite vocals of a more delicate nature, still preserves his Guillemots edge. Older fans will appreciate the more fuller-sounding tracks (When You Walk In The Room, Faster Than The Setting Sun) whilst new fans will be treated to a variable-sounding record. Certainly a strong debut album that will certainly be kept playing through the year.

When You Walk in the Room is the first single to be taken from Fly Yellow Moon


Fly Yellow Moon is out soon and can be purchased from Fyfe Dangerfield’s site.

TOUR DATES

Jan 18th 2010 Birmingham, Glee Club  £11/12 0871 472 0400 Click Here
Jan 19th 2010 Manchester Deaf Institute £12 0161 832 1111 Click Here
Jan 20th 2010 Glasgow ABC £13 0141 353 8000  Click Here
Jan 21st 2010 London Scala £12.50 08444 771 000 Click Here