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.

EP Review :: Spraynard – Exton Square

“…the band and their sound is maturing in real time, but holding onto what made them great in the first place.”

With their debut album, Funtitled, Spraynard – an American trio who can be best described as fusing the careful intricacies and passion of 90’s emo with all that is carefree and great about traditional pop-punk – cast me back to being 14 and listening to Weezer’s Blue Album.

That record is a collection of fast-paced upbeat songs about comic books, video games, generally lacking direction and being totally fine with the fact. This best summed up on their own words – in a line delivered as well as it is written – “Today I will prove that I’m more than a collection of comic books or a high score on the screen”. It’s an incredibly uplifting record that I could (and quite possibly should) go on about at length, alas this is a review of the new EP, sorry!

Exton Square opens with ‘Can I Borrow A Feeling?’, and for the first 78 seconds you might wonder if you’ve indeed put on a Spraynard record. It leads in with a slow and somewhat sensitive opening, something which many who were expecting the EP to simply be an extension of their debut would never have expected. This is quite quickly put to bed and the song continues in much more the fashion we’ve come to expect. This theme however is quite consistent throughout, and its one of the things I enjoy most about the EP. It’s definitely a Spraynard record, they’ve kept a lot of what made their earlier stuff great but they’ve also been able to develop their sound with fantastic results.

Listened to along side the previous release it really feels like a natural progression for the band. In the same way that Funtitled reminded me of youthful times of optimism, Exton Square reminds me of looking back on those times with a sense of nostalgia, and perhaps feeling the ill effects of growing up. It suggests that the band and their sound is maturing in real time, but holding onto what made them great in the first place. (It might be contradictory at this point to mention that my favourite tracking “Trembling” is probably the most closely matched to the style of their earlier records, but I don’t care.)

The style, structure and feeling of the new EP is so intriguing, the evolution of the sound leads to something of a cliffhanger as to what’s to come next. Sadly this sense of intrigue meant that I found it to be a little short, there are only 4 tracks and from a band that writes predominantly concise songs, it almost feels over too soon. This could perhaps be a very clever marketing ploy for a new full length release, but seeing as I didn’t see J. J. Abrams name in the album production credits I doubt it and so I was left feeling that perhaps there could have been a bit more content.

That said, there’s nothing to stop me putting it on again, and I think that’s what I’ll do.

– John Dykes

Interview :: Dave Hause

“I’m feeling tired, but blessed…” – Dave Hause

After an awesome run of shows in the UK last year on The Revival Tour, Dave Hause has been back in the UK with Dear & Departed and Alkaline Trio. I met with the singer/songwriter/Loved Ones frontman in London during the Trio’s set at their, sold out, Camden Barfly show to talk about everything from a new record, to his 7″ record project, to Laura Jane Grace. There’s also a number of cameos from the people of London, some of whom were apologetic for their interview interruptions.

Anyway, check out this interview and expect Dave to be back before 2012 is out. He seems to like it here.

Album Review :: Matt Skiba & The Sekrets – Babylon

“…it’s standard Matt Skiba fare with an emphasis on the emotional, the morose and the morbid.”

Having already got one new side-project under his belt for 2012, it was surprising to see Matt Skiba announce that he’d be releasing a full length with, new band, The Sekrets. Though considered a “solo-ish” outing from the Alkaline Trio vocalist/guitarist, Skiba enlisted Hunter Burgan (AFI) and Jarrod Alexander (My Chemical Romance) to help him out with this latest foray into the world of post-punk.

I say it’s a post-punk record, but it still contains a lot of the elements that endeared Skiba to punk fans for the past fifteen-plus years. Unlike his previous effort with Heavens, the record is a lot more upbeat and will sound familiar to fans of his work with The Trio. The addition of a synth and some light vocal effects – mainstays of that late 70s/early 80s post-punk sound – stand out as the the biggest difference between Babylon and newer recorded material. This is no bad thing, and there were times I felt that some of Agony & Irony and This Addiction may have been better served as part of this project.

Lyrically, it’s standard Matt Skiba fare with an emphasis on the emotional, the morose and the morbid, which fit well with the haunting synth tracks that lurk in the background of each song. Though even Skiba can’t be spot on all the time. ‘Luciferian Blues’ and ‘Falling Like Rain’ are the two weakest lyrical efforts on the album, with the latter definitely being the worst track on the record. There’s just a bit too much of that synth and it sounds like a bad 90s dance track.

At it’s worst it’s pretty bad, but there’s a lot to love here. ‘Voices’ and ‘All Fall Down’ make for a great opening to the record and ‘How The Hell Did We Get Here’ is absolutely fantastic. It’s tracks like these that combine the pop, punk, electro and post-punk influences the best and justify the reason for this record’s existence. With that said, despite of its post-punk roots and the clear influence of Joy Division and New Order, it’s not all that downbeat. Skiba still has a knack for making you want to sing along with him, even when it comes to the darkest of subjects.

In fact, it’s actually quite a fun record and feels like the natural progression of what Matt wanted to do with Heavens. Some may scoff that Matt’s not exactly stepped too far out of his comfort zone here, but that doesn’t mean him and the band haven’t made a really good record. It’s punky, poppy and morbid in equal measure, and definitely worth your time.

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, www.daleearnhardtjrjr.com/.

Songs To Cure Depression :: Ween – ‘Bananas And Blow’

“Stuck in my Cabana…”

This has been lifted straight from my blog so what does that tell us exactly?
Either I’m getting terribly lazy or the words already wrote were a perfect fit. In all honesty I think it’s both but the latter being more of a fluke then any kind of premeditated scheme. Anyway, that ugly, ugly, bastard know as depression was here biting at my nut sack again and even though the song really has fuck all with the current situation, it did briefly alleviate the grim feeling of melancholy. Here’s some additional words to go with those above.

It’s probably a good idea to do this while the adrenaline is still flowing through my body. I’m back off the drink again after falling back into it over the past week due to (or perhaps resulting in) finding myself in quite a dark place again.

But the adrenaline helps.

Even if all I want to do is sleep.

I guess I should make some kind of actual point here.

For the past few years I’ve spent my time honing a skill that has helped me throughout my days. This metaphorical tough skin that allows me to detach myself from any negative situation and just carry on with things. It prevented me from being getting bit in the arse by bad people, bad women, pretty much anything (the day I learn to use this technique to the same effect but for the bad feelings coming from within, shit, well that’ll be the day the apocalypse rears it’s slimy head and blows us all the fucking smithereens).

So who would have thought that my special ability would, in fact, bite me in the arse? Sometimes being an emotionally handicapped, socially inept, closed off freak isn’t a good thing. Especially when something (someone) good comes along and you find yourself going through the old routines of alienation and complacency instead of tearing down the self-constructed walls of reclusion and allowing yourself to be an actual damn human being and stop pretending you don’t give a crap.

It’s a scary prospect, this reintroduction into the wild.

To admit to caring.

To realise you’ll probably get broken down all over again, but giving it a shot anyway.

I’m a real fuck up and I’ll make a plethora of mistakes along the way.

But I’m willing to give it a shot.

Just gotta keep those digits crossed in hope this irrational fear of attachment hasn’t fucked it when it being fucked is the worst possible outcome.

Album Review :: Fighting Fiction – Fighting Fiction

“…I found myself relieved that the words “Flip your desk and trash the fucking place” never appeared in this album, if they had then I might well be out of a job by now.”

I first came across Fighting Fiction at Reading Festival in 2011, they played at midday on The Lockup Stage on the Sunday. I was really impressed, and any band that managed to shift my hangover, aching bones and fatigue in a 30 minute set was surely worth investigating further. I returned home and I got hold of The Lesser of Two Evils E.P and that was it, I was hooked (incidentally if you get chance the EP is well worth checking out, possibly my favourite four track record since All Hallows came out in 1999). I was really excited to hear their first full length release, and I have not been disappointed.

Fighting Fiction is a 4 piece band hailing from Brighton, England. They exact a dynamic and somewhat aggressive ska-infused punk rock sound, with socially motivated lyrics and almost anthemic vocal choruses.

If you’re listening to FF for the first time when you put on this record, they lay their cards quite openly on the table on the first track ‘Amazing Grace’. It’s a hard-hitting punk rock song with all the hallmarks that have formed the foundation of Fighting Fiction’s sound. It’s got great lyrics, infectious melodies and you will find yourself driven to sing along, powerful is just too meagre of a word to describe it.

The album continues with a track you may have heard before, the single ‘Rock and Roll is Dead and its Corpse is For Sale. It’s a fantastic track, there’s some really potent lines, and another chorus that you will not shift for hours (unless you skip forward a few tracks and listen to ‘Cameraphones and Choruses’). The pace doesn’t drop for a second as the third track kicks in, ‘Turning Rebellion into Money’, a brutally honest song about making profit from their music. So captivating and almost mesmerising are some of the melodies that I found myself relieved that the words “Flip your desk and trash the fucking place” never appeared in this album, if they had then I might well be out of a job by now.

Other noteable tracks include ‘Make Yourself into a Martyr’ and ‘No Room at the Inn’ (which will serve to appease listeners who are dissapointed that this record shows rather less of the ska influences than previous releases) and listeners with heart conditions will be comforted to know that this album is not all punch-in-the-face punk rock. The album also showcases a number of slower, more sensitive moments, balancing acoustic breaks with hard-hitting riffs in a delightfully structured manner, being British and a Punk Rock lover its incredibly refreshing to hear an album of this calibre in a Southern accent.

Upon first listen I found this album to die off a little towards the end (save for the revisiting of a personal favourite ‘Cameraphones…’) however the more I listen to it, the more I find myself appreciating the later songs. With most of the album being a “love at first listen” and the rest growing on me rapidly I can honestly say there’s not a song on the album that I dislike. 2012 has already been too kind to us in terms of albums, and this is just no exception (which is quite the feat if you know how much I love Cursive and The Menzingers). Fighting Fiction can be really proud of this record and I for one, cannot wait to hear more from them in the future.

– John Dykes

Songs To Cure Depression :: Ween – ‘If You Could Save Yourself (You’d Save Us All)’

“…the cheques all bounced. I came in your mouth.”

Depression won out today. It was going to happen eventually. Shit, we got through over ten installments of this damn thing before it go so ugly that a good song couldn’t clear it. So what else could I do? I couldn’t miss the deadline after doing so well, so I thought I’d pick a song that (to an extent) reflected the way I feel.

I’d said it recently on that goddamn blog that I didn’t understand why i was sinking so deep again, and I still don’t. I didn’t have any money, perhaps it was that. I didn’t have any love, so it could be that too. Or maybe I’d become so damn terrified of the prospect of life that I was just bumming out in the biggest of ways anyone can be bummed out by the weight of life, by letting it drag you down and beat you into submission. I’m scared senseless of all the big ones, them irritable questions that crop up when the reaper comes a’knocking.

“Is it my time?”
“Oh no, Ian, I’m just checking up on you. I heard you’ve been feeling real down recently and I just wanted to make sure you hadn’t decided to advance our little meeting without letting me know.”
“I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction.”
“Oh. Well. Good. Chin up kiddo.”
“Who told you?”
“The big man.”
“God?”
“Christ no, that fuck doesn’t care about anyone but himself. No, Satan. He’s worried sick about you.”

So this song is by Ween, arguably my favourite band. They do a lot of crazy shit but once in a while they pull out a gem like this, and as much as it gives some solace knowing that there is other people’s pain (and theirs is probably much worse) it doesn’t pick me up, just makes me feel dumb and stupid and miserable.
Fuck it. I’m going for a drink.

Album Review :: Apologies, I Have None – London

“…runs the emotional gamut, and does it expertly.”

It’s been a long time coming, but Apologies, I Have None have finally released their debut full-length and it’s absolutely fantastic. Having heard everything the band has done up to this point, and seen them live countless times, I always knew that this was going to turn out great. What I didn’t expect was to have my expectations completely shattered, and that’s exactly what’s happened here.

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to London. ’60 Miles’ hits you in the face right from the off and just doesn’t stop. The overarching theme of England’s capital making the record completely cohesive, and a very easy listen, despite some of the darker, more intense, subject matter. Rarely have I heard a record that can go from completely uplifting, to down and self loathing, and then do the whole thing all over again so seamlessly. This intensity is epitomised in ‘The 26’, but that was just one of the many times this record caught me off guard in the best way possible. It runs the emotional gamut, and does it expertly.

The record also delivers us a more polished Apologies, I Have None. Previous releases have been far from badly produced, but there’s been very little of this quality out there. This becomes especially apparent on the new recordings of ‘Sat In Vicky Park’ and ‘Joiners And Windmills’. Both songs sound better than ever and really fit in well amongst some of the newer, harder, tunes on the record. It also offers up something different, musically. ‘Foundations’ is nothing more than Dan and a piano, the rest of the band taking a back seat. And whilst it doesn’t sound like a ‘typical’ Apologies song, it’s by far the the most interesting song on the record.

Whilst I love how different ‘Foundations’ is and how intense ‘The 26’ gets, it’s ‘Concrete Feet’ – a song about the harsher aspects of life – that stands out as my favourite. The way the music builds in conjunction with the, seemingly self-deprecating lyrics really helps the song hit home. That’s not to say the lyrics aren’t powerful on their own: “You’ll always make mistakes/you’ll always fuck shit up/you will sometimes make bad choices/and blame that shit on bad luck” is just one example of the lyrical tour de force that this song (and the entire record) is.

In fact, everything about London is fantastic (it’s better than the city it’s named after, that’s for sure). So much so, that I’ve found it hard to review. It’s so good that I’ve found it hard to find a fault. I’d have to really start nitpicking to come up with something I didn’t like about these ten songs. I know there’s no such thing as a perfect record, but this might be as close as you’re going to get. It shows off exactly what Apologies, I Have None are all about, and should see the previously uninitiated clamoring for older material and a chance to see them live.

Songs To Cure Depression :: Wheatus – ‘Anyway’

“…even if I’m luck I’ll amount to zero, but I thought that you’d love me anyway.”

As I sat at the goddamn desk, sipping at my second coffee and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life and if any of this would ever lead to anything close to a wage, I felt a strange sense of something, not quite satisfaction or contentment, that is best described with the word “apathy,” a less crass way of describing the sentiment “I don’t give a fuck.”
Which to most might not seem like a good way to feel, but it was better than the 100 tonne anchor of depression pulling me into another week long black out binge session where I achieved very little apart from a few scrawls here and there. Yes, apathetic was progress, I had so many deadlines and so little enthusiasm to do them, but at least I wasn’t going under. But how did I get to this place? I sure as hell didn’t feel like this a few hours ago. Was it the fresh air I’d taken in on a stroll? The 30 minutes of meditation I had just recently done? Or was it the music? The beautiful music that has saved me from the jaws of that bastard death-shark more times then I can recount. A dose a cheesy indie-pop was just the ticket. Wheatus had been my guilty pleasure for so long that it wasn’t even a secret anymore, so much I just admitted it to anyone who inquired. And why shouldn’t I? As much as they will always be tarred as “that teenage dirt-bag band” (shockingly, they have other songs) Wheatus were in fact a group of talented, fun loving, song writers who could spin a mood from minus to plus within three minutes of high-pitched vocals, bouncy rhythms and tongue-in-cheek lyrical content (I mean, BMX Bandits is about jerking it to 16 year old Nicole Kidman) and there is few other examples of Wheatus at their best then the song “anyway.” I have no clue what the hell this video is about though, but it was the best YouTube had to offer.