At Face Value – Ivy & Echo [EP]

Tomorrow marks the release of Baltimore born At Face Value‘s new EP, Ivy & Echo. This follows their 2016 debut EP release Thick As Thieves.

First track Know It All follows the standard pop punk formula of overdrive guitars, crooning vocals, double speed drums and a bass line that follows the root notes of the guitar chords. It’s a tried and tested formula, and for fans of other similar bands such as All Time Low and We The Kings, it might be enjoyable. For someone looking for a little more depth and expansion of their usual music taste, this is perhaps not the track to introduce that.

Lead single Cinderella is much the same, the drums are hammering away under a decent guitar riff, but the rhythm guitar overpowers the riff too much, and the lower vocals are lost in the mix of the song. The chorus is upbeat and cheerful, however a lot of the vocal harmonies are drowed out by too much going on.

The EP starts to pick up at 24, Still Not Liked. The theme of the song is something a lot of young adults will relate to, particularly if they are pop punk fans. It’s one of the strongest songs on the EP, each instrument has its own place and musically the track sounds different to the previous two.

The listener can expect a change at Overcast (Acoustic), however is immediately confused when the main guitar line is performed by a clean electric guitar. There is an acoustic line too, and together they sound nice. The vocal harmonies sound great and fit the song really well. There is a random line at the end of the second verse where there is a lot of reverb applied to the vocals to make it sound like it’s sung in a church, but it’s not clear why. The overall song is the best on Ivy & Echo, however there are parts of it which aren’t as strong. It’s also not clear why this is the only ‘acoustic’ track, given that the assumed full band original isn’t on any of the group’s previous releases.

The best full band song on this EP is LOTR. The introduction is cheerful and there is a clear lead guitar line and a clear rhythm guitar part. The drums are also less busy and have a better effect on the overall sound. LOTR is followed by another strong track, Return The Slab, which is the final track on the EP. The drums rely too much on the cymbals in the first half of the song, but the vocals are balanced out better and stand out from the guitars much more. The soft harmonies really bring out the best qualities in the vocalist’s voice. There is also a nice piano melody in the outtro, an instrument which hasn’t been obviously used in any of the other tracks.

In trying to do too much, At Face Value have lost a lot of the sense of the music in Ivy & Echo. They are each talented musicians, however they don’t seem to be working together fully to really create something special. The latter half of the EP is much more carefully written, performed and produced than the first two tracks, which are disappointing enough to put new potential fans off from listening to the rest of Ivy & Echo.

Selfish Things – Vertical Love – REVIEW

In 2015, Alex Biro made the move from solo singer-songwriter to frontman singer of Toronto-based Selfish Things. On March 16th 2018, they release their first major EP Vertical Love. At six tracks, the EP as a whole offers a lot for any Alternative Rock fan to enjoy, with many of the archetypical tropes and inevitable highs and lows. There’s a bit more beneath the surface to observe though, lots of fine guitar parts interlinking and some crafty production work on offer. Look out for the keys and piano too. Let’s dive right in.

You start looking for the fire exit pretty early when opener 8147 Mullholland Terrace boots up, but just hold tight for a second. It doesn’t exactly send a good omen off the bat when some questionably croaky vocals start to form, but there’s a pleasant surprise in store when the surprisingly lofty chorus takes hold of the song. It’s very chalk and cheese, and doesn’t afford the audience much easing in. There’s a strong riff running throughout, but it’s mostly fairly uniform, stationary Alternative Rock – throwing a You Me At Six vibe into the mix. It seems like a risky opening move, on one hand they’ve tried to cast a wide net with a neutral opener – which makes sense – but tried to offset that with some edgy moments in between the lulls.

Things improve though when the keys in the intro of Rust Cohle Never Sleeps seem to want to take the EP by the scruff of the neck. This is a saving move, as the dynamic control and overall atmosphere is really positive in the critical parts of the song. The similarly eerie intro of Without You makes them partner well back-to-back, but unfortunately it labours as the song wears on despite some intriguing lyrics. It seems a premature move at this point, as the EP doesn’t seem sufficiently built-up for this quieter number.

That said, Five Years is much closer to what Without You should have been and it’s hugely satisfying. It’s right on the money, probably the most natural sound on the EP. A steady and delicate drum rhythm pulls the coarse words through the song, behind gentle piano and guitar parts offering echoed, terse and plucking sounds in astute combinations. The song escalates well, there’s something brittle and vulnerable to the song which gradually gets more compact. Hangman by contrast is a looser entry and a welcome change of pace. The layering in the song keeps you waiting for an impact moment which is delayed and delayed. This suspense is well dictated so that when it does go into full flowing instrumentation, it’s a really gratifying execution.

Closing number 1435 is the trough that the album warrants. An ebbing and flowing piano has some refreshingly colourful movements, and supports Alex Biro well with a downcast, chesty vocal display. This changes in the latter half when the drums and guitar come belting through the front door, a little predictably but not to its detriment, allowing Alex to move into a more heartfelt cry to the audience and close Vertical Love with a customary crescendo to fade out. Textbook.

This is a promising first major EP from Selfish Things which at face value bodes well for them. Selfish Things benefits from a singer with solo artist experience as he is able to capture some excellent individual moments, but his transition to a full band singer is the right move in his development, as he doesn’t always possess the strength of presence to sustain interest in a song when isolated. As a result, Vertical Love is inconsistent with its quality and can fluctuate rapidly depending. With the support and compensation of a technically astute band which capitalises on some deft production quality however, this record is for the most part intriguing, provoking and captivating: 7/10

Selfish Things are on Facebook. Vertical Love is out 16th March and can be purchased here.

Check out that cracking track Rust Cohle Never Sleeps below

Crimson Star – Bay View [EP]

Birmingham based Crimson Star have been working hard this past summer and will be dropping their latest EP, Bay View, in January 2018.

The first track, The Pragmatist, immediately catches the listener’s attention with a catchy riff similar to Royal Blood, before backing off to a stripped back verse. The group sound much bigger than just three members, taking influences from other trios such as Muse, making full use of effects without going overboard.

They are described as similar to Queens Of The Stone Age, but they mix more indie and hard rock influences into their music. La Prom is very stripped back, more so than the verses of The Pragmatist, making full use of reverb effects to build space and suspense in the mix, particularly in the guitar solo. The vocalist’s style is reminiscent of Dave Grohl which is particularly noticable in La Prom.

Back to the Royal Blood influences in Once, this is one of the weaker tracks in terms of creativity. The guitar part is just a chord progression apart from the main riff, which only uses a few notes and bends, however it is great to see effects used really well on the bass, which a lot of bands don’t take full advantage of.

The opening riff for Euthanise Me immediately reminds the listener of Muse, particularly of some of the work from the latest album. The verse is again stripped back to drums, bass and vocals in a very indie style, and the chorus slips back into Foo Fighters style, similar to the other tracks on the EP. However the track does not need to be 5 minutes long.

Saving the best track for last, Gimme Some is clearly the most unique and creative track on Bay View, both in terms of musicality and lyrical content. The main riff differs to the chorus riff, however the solo is disappointing and short.

Considering that Crimson Star have been around since 2012, and have had plenty of time to hone and develop their sound, it is a little disappointing to hear them sound very similar to other acts in the alternative genre.

Small Pond Big Fish – Wicked Young, Wicked Old [EP]

London based Small Pond Big Fish immediately make an impression upon the listener in the very first track of their EP Wicked Young, Wicked Old. The EP opens with Parallels, which includes a catchy riff and draw the listener in before the vocals even hit. The lead vocalist’s powerful voice and the relateable lyrical content, particularly in the bridge (What has become of me?). The instrumental parts to the track include some well placed but brief drum breakdowns, however the guitar solo in this particular track is disappointingly average.

Hold On introduces a more pop punk feel, similar to the likes of A Day To Remember, however the vocals are much softer and the song sounds much cheerier than most pop punk content. Parts of this track sound disjointed as each section is different, and the only part of the song that flows for the entire four minutes are the vocals, which hold everything together.

Down The Rabbit Hole begins much the same way as Hold On, however each instrument has its own place in this track and can be clearly heard. At around the two minute mark a time change comes in for a few bars, which breaks up the song but isn’t really necessary. After a great opening track, the following two are very underwhelming.

Stranger Than is a slow track in 3/4 time, fully utilising the bass as an instrument that is capable of playing more than just root notes. The drums have their own short fills to introduce the next section of the track and make the use of pauses not to go too crazy, building the song up even more. The guitars aren’t too loud, fitting the genre of the song nicely.

The final track is Lungs, which uses reverb and delay in the introduction to build up space before the main riff hits. The verse returns to this theme again, using broken chords over strummed chords. The chorus sounds more cheerful than the verse or the instrumental parts suggest, piquing the listener’s curiosity.

Although each track is different, there are some overriding themes. The chorus vocals in each track are multitracked with harmonies from the lead singer, however to pull this off live either the band will have to perform backing vocals or effects will have to be used. The final two tracks flow better and appear to be better written and rehearsed than the first three. The middle two poorer tracks bring the whole tone of the EP down a little but overall, Wicked Young, Wicked Old shows that Small Pond Big Fish are capable of writing and performing in different styles and time signatures, it’s just a case of choosing where to use them.

Mid Reflections – Outcast – REVIEW

What comes to mind when you think of English music? I go straight to the 90’s with Oasis, Blur and Gorillaz. Some though may think of Morrissey. Others may think more recently of those who have defined modern British music – Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks. Whatever you think of, there is a helping of all of these iconic Brits on Punk-Rap act Mid Reflections’ debut EP Outcasts.

There are two things which shine through the 4-track EP. One is what made their compatriots so distinctive and it’s their embrace of their regional identity. In this case their London tone and attitude is a great departure from the American camouflage that we have become so normalised by.

The other is the range of influences here, as implied. It gives strong impressions of Ed Sheeran’s You Need Me I don’t Need You in parts due to vibrant and intricate guitar parts tied to frequent lashing lyrical exchanges. At other times, the more downtrodden parts resonate more towards a Gorillaz-edge. If the production value on this EP (which is more or less spot-on) was dialled up a few notches, there could be some comparison between Hollywood Undead.

Opening title-track Outcast is straight to the point and straight into the chorus. Like the whole of the release, you find Mid Reflections accessing serious topics by using flippant lines: “Wasn’t easy as an outcast | Didn’t want to show my face like I’m Kenny from South Park”. It means you don’t take them that seriously so it’s easier to engage with these themes. It forecasts a general song make-up of dynamically pin-point breathless rapping showing off the astounding lung capacity of Rapper Matthew Bishop, aka 2T’z. This is enforced with basic but watertight drum rhythms, moving well into chanty choruses and an array of clean and distorted guitar parts.

Elsewhere, they seem to take a swipe at The Government amongst other things on Illusions with a cockier, upbeat vibe. Bishop is at his razor sharpest on Legalise It one that fuses quite an old-school riff with a shouty chorus. No second guesses what this one is about, he leaves you in his dust but you do struggle to really catch all of what he says. Foes is the calmest of the lot and my personal favourite. The binding guitar just works with Bishop’s rap style here. The melody ducks and dives patiently, allowing Bishop to push himself technically but it’s not over the top. It drops off nicely into a borderline spoken chorus, but spoiled by a bit of a sore-thumb mid-section – that said, it’s a solid closing touch overall.

A bare-knuckled and bare-faced approach to lyric-writing and song-writing works well with it’s overall charm and audacity. We’ve seen how rap can be fused with different alternative styles over the years, this offering by Mid Reflections is a refreshing one and despite (or because of) it’s eclecticism, doesn’t smack of imitation. It’s a promising EP, one that could also be viewed as novelty though. It is a rough diamond, so there is a bit of polishing to do – particularly on the often sloppy song outros – to take it to the next level that said: [7/10]


Outcasts is out now via their website.

Head over to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more info.

Sleeping With Sirens – Live & Acoustic from NYC – Review

Lots has happened in the Sleeping With Sirens camp in the last few months. Just before announcing their place on the Slam Dunk 2018 line-up on Wednesday (15th November), out came a three-track Live and Acoustic from NYC EP at the end of October, which compliments September’s fifth studio full-length album release Gossip.

Is the EP any good? Sure, for the neutral listener it’s clear weather and for those more familiar with their style, it’s got many staples of what we’ve long come to expect from the Florida act’s acoustic side: fluid vocals propped up with solid guitar in great dovetail action, held together by unimposing percussive touches in the background. In fact, it gives some tracks from Gossip a second chance to shine having not received the reception that Sirens probably wanted from it’s fan base.

Live and Acoustic from NYC, consisting of stripped down versions of Legends, Gossip and One Man Army, certainly gives the band’s most recognisable asset – Kellin Quinn’s twisting vocals – licence to fly and therefore it does feel more authentic than their full band versions – but it does all just seem to be lacking the vigour that characterised Sirens at their inception and launched them into stardom.

Middle-track Gossip translates over the best, a bit more friction in the guitar work and just a bit more give on those vocals. Bookends Legends and One Man Army seem to blur together a little, both originally quite generic tracks in the first place and the acoustic renditions don’t do enough to shift that impression – but removing all the electronic debris from these tracks does make them more accessible. I’d have probably preferred an acoustic cameo of The Chase to feature from the 2017 record to inject a bit of life into this release though.

In it’s own right, it’s a decent listen but not one that lives long in the memory. When you compare it against the past acoustic releases – most notably 2012’s towering (mostly) acoustic EP If You Were A Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack – it pales in comparison. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, it’s still not the standard that older fans are used to: [5/10].

Check out the before…

… and after.

Fortify – Valhalla [EP]

Female fronted Essex rockers Fortify are due to release their debut EP,  the self release Valhalla on 27th October. Opening with What About Us, the listener’s first impression is that the group take their influences from heavier rock, however there are some pop elements which are heavily present in the chorus. The song takes lyrical influence from spurned love, reducing the heaviness somewhat. Lead singer Anna Louise’s voice also sounds quite poppy, adding to the self described ‘easycore’ genre.

Following What About Us is Survivors, opening with a slow guitar riff. It is the slowest song on Valhalla, and the only track in 3/4 time. The speed and the broken chord riff make the track the most pop/easycore on the EP. It begins to build up at the chorus without losing the pop aspect.

In the middle of Valhalla is Rumours, and the opening riff sounds like a mash up between Incubus and Madina Lake, incorporating the alt rock vibe. The chorus is the catchiest so far on the EP, and the listener can imagine Rumours would be a real crowd pleaser in a concert setting. It is hear that the listener really begins to notice the variation in lead vocalist Anna Louise’s voice, particularly in contrast to Survivors. The guitar solo here is also the best on the EP. Each instrument can be heard in Rumours perfectly in the balance of the song, enhancing the epic sound that the track already has.

Following in much the same vein is Emergency Exit, another great track that sounds more alternative than What About Us and Survivors whilst incorporating some of those heavier themes that Rumours uses. It is here that the range in vocals is really shown, from the growly lows to the perfect highs. The timing in the stops during the second verse are all nailed perfectly, before leading into the slower bridge.

Final track Strangers is another faster and heavier song, and gives the listener the impression that Valhalla has been building up to this moment. Strangers is a slightly longer song than the previous tracks, sitting just shy of 5 minutes. Here again the listener can see the impressive vocal range of Anna Louise, particularly contrasting the screamed backing vocals during the bridge. However there is no final chorus to this track, leaving the listener wanting more.

The recurring theme throughout Valhalla is half time bridges, which are all well planned and well executed. The listener finishes the EP feeling pumped from the build up of tracks and definitely wanting to hear more, and looking forward to a gig or album release.

INTERVIEW – Witterquick

Following on from our review of Witterquick’s New EP Fire and Ice  we got chance to ask the bands bassist Ollie Chanter some questions about this release among other things, here is what he had to say about what we asked him.

What was the overall process for writing this release?
There wasn’t a formal start for most of them, they all came about in different ways. ‘I Need a Friend Tonight’ was written about 6 months before our first EP came out… ‘Shattered Suns’ was a demo that was floating around for a year or so which we never quite got right. One time in rehearsals the “Make me feel alive…” chorus part came out of nowhere and glues it all together. …Hiding Place’ came from our experiences leading up to the first release in 2016, it was a song we needed to get out, mostly to carry out that cathartic energy so we could move on as a new band…

When it does come to writing new songs how do you start?
Most songs start with Will, he’ll have recorded a phone memo of a melody or chorus line, then he’ll demo that up for safe keeping, and often forgotten until much later. He and I will go through ideas and develop demos into full songs if they aren’t already…

What are your personal favourite songs off of Fire and Ice?
Everyone has a different favourite, and that extends to our first EP too. ‘Friend’ has a special place for everyone though, particularly live, it’s probably my personal favourite of anything we’ve done, it’s such an intense song. ‘Shattered Suns’ is one that we’re particularly excited for people to hear too.

Lyrically and Instrumentally this EP was great. One of my personal favourites was Lie To Me. Which came first for that track?
As with most of our songs the music comes first. The music sets the scene and creates the vibe which we then use when it comes to the lyric process.

Although the EP isn’t out yet, what are your plans for future releases?
 We’ve got a few surprises up our sleeves for the near future, we can’t go into that just yet. We have no intention of pumping the breaks.

When it comes to playing shows which song is the most fun?
One of the tracks from the new record ‘Shattered Suns’ is a real fun one to play, as is ‘Fade Out’ from our first EP. One that never fails to amaze though is ‘Wayward Signs’, it’s become that track that everyone sings along to. Nothing quite beats a room full of people singing back and connecting with you in that way…

What do you like about playing live?
Aside from the fun we have on stage (we’re quite an active live band), it’s the interaction with the fans. Touring, for us, is all about getting to see our fans. Talking to people who truly connect with your music is an incredible feeling, and very humbling, particularly meeting fans that have come as far as Germany, France, Poland, and recently we even had a guy travel from Kazakhstan! Hearing from fans that one of our songs helped them get through a tough time, or literally saved their life, is beyond words. Knowing that we’ve been there to help people, even if not physically, that’s more than we could have ever hoped for…that’s job done as far as we’re concerned.

When can people catch you playing live for the remainder of this year?  
We’ve got a few announcements coming up which will cover 2017, and 2018 is going to be a busy one for us too.

If you could have your dream gig lineup who would be on it?
Dream lineup? Biffy Clyro, MUSE, and Guns and Roses.

If you could’ve written any song in history what song would it be?
 The list is long and varied. Halo by Ryan Tedder / Beyonce, Kickstart my Heart by Motley Crue.
This release is a great listen so be sure to check out our review of the record but also make sure you grab yourself a copy when it releases.

Black Stone Cherry announces covers EP

Black Stone Cherry have announced that they will be releasing a covers EP titled Back To Blues which will be released on the 29th September.


1. Built For Comfort
2. Champagne & Reefer
3. Palace Of The King
4. Hoochie Coochie Man
5. Born Under A Bad Sign
6. I Want To Be Loved


Chris Robertson had the following to say

“I know it’s crazy for four rock n’ roll dudes to make a blues EP, but it’s us sharing with everyone the music that’s been our DNA from day one 


Check out the EP trailer below

Northshore – Alternative Futures [EP]

Northshore, formed in the UK in early 2017, have already recorded their debut EP Alternative Futures, due for release on 21st August via Scylla Records. With this in mind, the listener will be surprised and how cohesive Northshore‘s sound is, as a newly formed band. The four track EP takes influences from State ChampsThe Maine and Dance Gavin Dance, to name a few. Northshore draw all these influences together and add their own twist to it, making something new and exciting in the world of UK pop punk.

Opening with Read Between The Lines, the catchy riff immediately grabs the listener. The lyrics are relatable, catchy and flow easily throughout the song. The second track is the debut single, Better Days. The juxtaposing cheerful music with the emotional lyrical content really grabs the listener’s attention and is an excellent example of the rest of the EP, and the best choice from the EP for the debut single. The opening track also uses this to some extent, but it is more noticeable in Better Days.

Coming Home is again a relatable song for listeners, the first chorus slowing down and asking ‘When are you coming home? I’ve got so much to tell you‘. The musical content is more dynamic in this track, building up and dropping out as required. The second chorus is more built up than the first. This track doesn’t use the traditional verse/chorus structure, and actually ends at 2 minutes 20 seconds, after the built up second chorus.

The final track, Alternative Futures, goes back to the usual pop punk feeling, and as the title track of the EP would make the best choice for a second single, if Northshore decide to release another track from this EP. Alternative Futures has the best guitar solo out of the entire EP, using musicality over technique, and really flowing with the rest of the song, incorporating themes from the main riff.

Northshore have really released something high quality for having only been together for less than a year. Alternative Futures spells out a promising future for the group, and they are already thinking about their next release. Although they have a tough act to follow with such a good EP, they are sure to outperform themselves and release something even better next time!