James Vincent McMorrow With Rob Bravery at Plug, Sheffield 10/02/2012

A young bearded man by the name of Rob Bravery took to the stage to a fairly packed room at Plug, with a guitarist and piano he gave a delicate and acoustic performance of his incredible debut ‘The Elusive Crux’. Despite well structured songs it is his unique and soft voice that grips you as it closely resembles Elliot Smith.  Rob Bravery’s downfall is that by playing acoustically there isn’t any upbeat moments to soften the intense set; however that is offset by his bravery to appear alone on the stage and deliver an incredible performance for a support act.

Starting with the faster paced Sparrow and the Wolf James Vincent McMorrow starts the show with a lively song which engages the now packed venue. It is when the slower more delicate offerings are performed that the gig notches up a gear, as his powerful falsetto voice captivates the audience and creates silence within it; this is particularly the case when the backing band left the stage for James Vincent McMorrow to perform We Are Ghosts and Higher Love acoustically. He was a timid character on stage, announcing that he was supposed to play a smaller venue but had been upgraded, he shyly bantered with audience members who shouted marriage proposals and love for his beard; however this shyness was not apparent when he was playing as his stage and voice presence was so large it consumed you as an audience member leaving behind goose bumps.

First Aid Kit ‘The Lion’s Roar’ Review

The two Swedish sisters who became You Tube sensations drop their second album and is possibly one the better Americana albums produced in the last few years.  They have finally stepped out of Fleet Foxes shadow and moved to a more country orientated sound, highlighted beautifully by ‘Emmylou’. Perhaps due to the input of Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis the song writing has shifted from characters and folktales to self narrative and reflection “And I’m a God damn coward then again so are you”; however it is important to note that the self-reflection is used occasionally throughout a song so that it never feels gloomy or depressive but still has enough power to convey their story. The vocals have matured as well; they are now much easier to listen to, though it is a little heavy-handed on the reverb. The instrumentation has become lush and filled with confidence and charm. The only disappointment is the end song ‘King of the World’, it never  goes anywhere and just seems to go round in circles, whilst the warbling voice of Conor Oberst doesn’t sit well next to the two delicate sisters; this leaves a very dissatisfied finish to the album. Despite the final song this is a much bigger and braver album that places the Sodenberg sisters in their own light.

Key Songs: Emmylou, The Lion’s Roar and Blue

The Maccabees ‘Given To The Wild’ Review

The Maccabees return with their third album, their previous albums were perfection in indie with dark pop elements, but the third album sees the band mature and grow with confidence to an album that might be their defining sound and is certainly their masterpiece. The album itself is concise and consistent with each song blending beautifully into the next, there isn’t necessarily a standout song but it is an album which should be listened to as an album. The album also creates a rich and beautiful soundscape which conjures up imagery of landscapes and the wild, this makes the album title aptly named. Orlando Weeks voice is a beautiful falsetto which washes and blends effortlessly with the instrumentation. Whilst the album is as gentle as a summer stream, it does provide some upbeat moments such as the songs ‘Unknown’ and ‘Pelican’. Whilst The Maccabees previous albums were ‘perfection’ they now certainly feel like they were stepping stones to ‘Given To The Wild’, an album which shows maturity and a band brimming with confidence. A real gem.

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Essential Tracks: Really must be listened to as an album

The Crookes Live At The Queens Social Club, Sheffield// 17/12/2011

So this review might be slightly late but since seeing the band I have not been able to access the world of the internet, until now…

It was clear how much Sheffield loves this band and it was equally clear how much the band loves Sheffield, their hometown. The band delighted the crowd by playing the foot stompers Bloodshot Days, Backstreet Lovers and Bright Young Things as well as treating us to a wonderful cover of Santa Baby (well it was Crookesmas). The band was energetic and George Waite excelled as front man, while his hair bounced along to the beat and for a moment I thought I was watching Michael McIntyre. The concert was excellent and it was clear the crowd and the band were enjoying themselves, however you couldn’t help feel the venue wasn’t equipped well enough in particular for sound quality, while I felt the stage was too small for the band.

The first support act: Silent Film Project were good but they were an average indie band; pleasant to listen to but lack that tune that sets them apart. The second support act was Sissy and The Blisters who were fantastic, they provided a fresh sound of garage rock similar to early Horrors and are definitely worth seeking out further. The Crookes gave a fantastic performance and it is hard to understand how these guys are not bigger. The band tells the crowd that it has been their “best ever gig” and was an “absolute pleasure to be home” but it is safe to say the pleasure was all ours. Thank you Crookes for a great Christmas present.

The Vaccines Live At The 02 Academy, Sheffield

The Vaccines are a rare bread in the music industry using and infusing chord progression and musical styles that we have heard before yet managing to place their own identity within the songs to create something very memorable. Another key element to their style and success is that the songs are short and snappy or anthemic. Thus seeing one of the most exciting bands of 2010 was something I could not pass up.

The academy was pretty full by the time the first support act Howler came on stage possibly one of the most suitable support acts for The Vaccines, considering they sound like a mix of The Strokes and The Vaccines. The band had a good stage presence with some good songs to accompany them. Whilst the second support act: Frankie & The Heartstrings were a disappointment, musically they were pretty average, however Hunger is a pretty darn fine song, but it was singer Frankie Francis who let the band down, he was far too much into himself rather than the crowd (who threw drinks at them) whilst attempting to channel Ian Curtis (of Joy Division) badly.

It was after 9.30 by the time The Vaccines had come on the stage with their immense song ‘Blow It Up’ and they were fantastic; but it was their second song ‘Wreckin Bar’ which saw both the crowd and band burst into energy, from then on out it was a monster of a show. The band was able to combine both upbeat garage rock whilst the slower songs (All In White, Wetsuit) resulted in a mass sing along. The band also previewed a new song which sounds like it could quite happily sit within the first album but it was bloody awesome.

The band technically sounded great better than their album in fact. Whilst the light show complimented the set really well. The band was enthusiastic and knew how to work the crowd, particularly on the slower more anthem songs.

With killer hooks, anthems and a bloody great live performances it’s not hard to see why The Vaccines rose so quickly from the underground scene; and there are few bands that deserve this success more.

Set List

  1. Blow It Up
  2. Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
  3. Tiger Blood
  4. A Lack of Understanding
  5. Wetsuit
  6. (New Song)
  7. Post Break Up Sex
  8. All In White
  9. Under Your Thumb
  10. Wolf Pack
  11. If You Wanna
  12. Family Friend
  13. We’re Happening (Encore)
  14. Norgaard (Encore)

Kate Bush ’50 Words For Snow’ Album Review

Kate Bush releases her second album of the year: ’50 Words for Snow’ and it is a blend of cold and delicate melodies which might not be her most accessible work but it is the most focussed. The seasonal album has an overlying theme of snow and winter but search within this and you will find songs packed with innocence and distance mixed with life and love. This is something Bush does outstandingly well, taking a concept which would seem absurd but turns it into something rather beautiful, as in the case of ‘Misty’ the romance of a snowman. The instrumentation and matured vocals blends effortlessly with the underlying theme to create a very rich album which keeps rewarding the listener. This is a fantastic, intense album that reiterates just how talented Bush is.

Spotlight: White Rose ‘Fanimal EP’ Review

Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines clearly influence these four lads from Darlington, Co Durham. This is no bad thing as they have enough of their own stamp to create a very likeable EP. At only four tracks it clearly demonstrates the ability of the band; the lyrics and structures of the songs are strong whilst Jack Turner provides some very unique vocals which are best appreciated on the slower songs. But the real powerhouse behind this band is quite clearly the bassist Danny Miller; his bass lines keep the songs tight and compelling.

White Rose excel best on their more upbeat songs with Black Box Magic a clear standout song that really is worth the listen. The band also turn their hand very well to softer slower songs, as Melanie’s Melancholy demonstrates, although the song does lose focus at just under two minutes when it delves into realms of the clichéd, however Jack Turner’s vocals are the key element to the song.

White Rose are an unsigned band and this EP clearly shows they have so much potential and are a band to watch out for. You can stream their EP on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/whiterosebandne.

Birdy ‘Birdy’ Album Review

Birdy or Jasmine van den Bogaerde has chosen some fantastic covers from Fleet Foxes to The Postal Service; whilst her cover of ‘Skinny Love’ rivals that of Bon Iver’s for beauty. However, too often it doesn’t feel like she has stamped her identity well enough onto songs but merely covered them with a piano; a prime example is that of ‘Young Blood’ (Naked and Famous) where the structure of the song is unchanged, whilst her voice on Terrible Love attempts to replicate that of Matt Berninger (The National).

The highlight of this album has to be ‘Without a Word’, the one song on the album written by Birdy, it clearly shows the potential of the young women and the album would have benefitted from more of her own songs. Both ‘Without a Word’ and ‘Skinny Love’ benefit from the delicate vocals and piano, however, after an album of this it does become a little repetitive. There are also some clear comparisons formed between Birdy and Adele and it feels a little bit of the record company trying to capitalise on this.

There are some beautiful moments on this album but it is mostly an average affair. However, she is only 15 years old and with some better direction she could create something quite wonderful.

Key Songs: Skinny Love, Without a Word, I’ll Never Forget You and People Help The People

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Dead Sons ‘Boom Boom EP’ Review

Formed from the ashes of Milburn and The Backhanded Compliments, this Sheffield band have been likened to Arctic Monkeys, and whilst they will appeal to the Monkeys fans Dead Sons deserve to be seen in their own light, as this EP shows.

At only four songs this short EP is powerful, psychedelic and just bloody awesome. At first listen you will be overwhelmed by the catchiness and melody of the songs but on subsequent listen you can hear a very dark undertow, which is what surely will set them apart from the monkeys. ‘Shotgun Woman’ is a strong opener, whilst ‘Better Than Being Alone’ provides the EP with a slower and more emotional song, this shows the band are capable of layering and adding space into the songs. It is however ‘Bangonfullturn’ which is the highlight of the EP, the heavy bass mixed with some excellent guitar riffs should surely become an indie classic. Whilst Thomas Rowley vocals contain depth and uniqueness which make the songs very interesting to listen to.

This EP surely highlights the strength of the Sheffield music scene, whilst it highlights the incredible song writing ability from the band. It is unlikely this band will remain on the underground scene for too long, as this EP is surely a sample of what they can do; and if their album is anything as good as this then they might be the saviour of both the indie and Sheffield music scene.

Coldplay ‘Mylo Xyloto’ Review

I have never been much of a fan of Coldplay, there has been the odd song, but I felt they were pale imitations of bands like U2, Starsailor and in particular Death Cab for Cutie. I also felt they created songs for commercial release not because they actually meant something. But what of this album? Well it is Coldplay’s strongest, yet nothing much has really changed.

The band adopts heavy synthesisers for most of the songs, which are broken up by acoustic and electric guitars, creating a very rich and colourful instrumentation, but these do become very tiring after a while, as all the songs use the same tricks of acoustic guitar mixed with heavy bass and synthesisers, whilst the electric guitar occasionally makes an appearance;  whilst these are not used in a diverse enough way and so the album becomes repetitive.  It is, however, very pleasant to hear Coldplay embracing a more upbeat sound which is juxtaposed with some really lovely and tender slow songs. This creates a very well balanced album.

Coldplay usually have very clichéd lyrics; this album provides not only clichés but very poor ones: “I turn the music up, got my records on, I shut the world outside until the lights come on”, in fact these aren’t just poor, they are lazy; however this song (Every Tear is a Waterfall) does provide the strongest and most interesting instrumentation; using and blending synthesises with the sparingly used electric guitar. Rihanna’s vocals are very good on ‘Princess of China’ but Chris Martins voice pales in comparison, whilst it is the weakest (and most annoying) track off the album. Furthermore, the short interlude of songs doesn’t add any new depth to the album.

This albums seems like Coldplay are still trying to hold onto their commercial fame, firstly the collaboration with one of the biggest pop stars at present then they adopt the very current trend of synthesisers. So, whilst Coldplay have moved on from the shadows of U2 and Death Cab they still haven’t found their own identity. This isn’t a bad album and is the best I have heard by the band, but this year has provided some truly excellent albums which should be heard over this.

Key Songs: U.F.O, Paradise, Major Minus

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