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

Reggie and the Full Effect – ’41’ – Review

Pop punk is growing up. The new school are bringing in genuine emotion and lived experience, singing about mental health and other, often progressive societal issues. The old school, bands like blink-182, aren’t bothering to keep up, instead relying on juvenility to keep a young fanbase happy. It’s not uncommon for older pop punk bands to do this. Harking back to the halcyon days of chasing girls, smoking weed, and fart jokes is almost like reliving times gone by. James Dewees (AKA Reggie and the Full Effect), however, seems to be embracing growing up. Read more

Frauds – With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice – REVIEW

Is punk dead yet? Listening to Frauds’ latest release With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice, there’s still some punk defiance out there that will not give up the ghost just yet.

A cacophony from start to finish, this 8-track haul from Londoners Frauds sounds a bit like someone going through a midlife crisis. It attempts to be nuanced, tongue-in-cheek and idiosyncratic, but ultimately it’s an irritating and bizarre mess. I’m considerably more stressed having listened to this.

Let’s Find Out, doesn’t start the album well but you understand what you’re in for – and I suspect many people will make up their minds quickly to bail at this point. Then again, what did you expect from an album called With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice, which features rotten toast dipped in orange juice as it’s artwork? Odd.

It’s main riff drags on for a minute until we first hear some vocals from Chris Franscombe and Mike Alvarez – who also perform drums and guitar respectfully. What we’re greeted with is like a rambling drunk man getting angrier as the song progresses. We never get the drums the song needs and it glitches out to a finish. Second-up Smooth is perhaps a little more glum in places, but isn’t as the title suggests. Rough and patchy, it’s got a traditional punk gravity and a super irritating vocal hook in it. You can check it out below:

Sandwich is a strange song of two halves: unsettlingly piercing in the former half, unsettlingly mellow in the latter. These halves don’t work together at all but it’s thematic of the running album concepts of combining two unlikely flavours – as the artwork alludes to. Kudos, I guess.

Just Come of Age sounds as it suggests: villainous and cynical. When in full swing, there’s a dark punk vibe which works well with the darker lyrical themes. With a dose of lunacy and probably some conspiracy theories, it’s the pick of the bunch – plus, it’s abrupt ending works really well.

Suck Jobs is one of the few songs that seems to have what resembles a chorus, not just an open-ended disassembly of guitar, drums and wounded shrieks and shrills. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve is a sore listen. If you can persevere past the lumbering guitar riff, it’s got an alright vocal hook and general edginess to it which you can get behind.

Several tracks seem to serve as pure track fodder: The Feeding Frenzy and Doom for the most part make little contribution to the overall album. What connective music is here doesn’t stick around for long, they are mostly padded out with slow guitar parts that drag and drain the album horribly.

The significance of final track Give In is anybody’s guess – although there must be some. It’s builds to a crescendo around the midway mark with a repeating riff being crushed under cymbals, ambient noise and other synthetic effects before cutting off suddenly. Whether this is purposeful is genuinely a mystery to me as it sounds more like an uploading fault than producing intent, the build doesn’t lead cleanly into it. Presumably, it’s public so it must be intentional, especially as the song resumes around the 7 minute mark – about 2 minutes of silence later – for a trivial 30 second outburst. My thoughts are that it’s some pointless hidden excerpt. Why is it here? Confusing and not well executed.

With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice is an enigma, one which clearly wants to stimulate and engage in discourse within its discordant manner – but probably stifles it in reality. Audiences will not be spoon fed, they will have to actively apply themselves to enjoy this record. Fleeting palatable and memorable moments are strewn across the album sporadically and it makes the listen deeply uncomfortable. There’s some real outside-the-box thinking going on here by Frauds, but it’s just a bit too nauseating: [2/10]

With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice is available now via soundcloud and bandcamp, also check out their Facebook.

Four Year Strong – Some Of You Will Like This // Some Of You Won’t – REVIEW

Hailing from New England the Punk Rockers Four Year Strong are set to release their new record on the 8th of September. The record which is titled Some Of You Will Like This // Some Of You Won’t is set to be a great release with the band playing some of their old songs in new compositions or unplugged and also dropping a few new cuts at the same time. But without further ado let’s break down this new Four Year Strong release.

It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now kick starts this new record. It is a song everyone knows and is possibly FYS’ most recognizable song, but on this record and with its reimagination the song finds a new lease of life with a very beautiful and haunting musical composition that adds a new dimension to the track. Alongside this, the re-work just shows what is in-store for the rest of this record, from the beautiful vocal performances to the well-orchestrated instrumentation it is clear that FYS on this record, are setting out to please with this unplugged rarities album. All together this opening track is a beautiful redesign which opens up the album in a clear and strong way.

following on from this album opener is a duo of tracks which is fronted by Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die. The simple acoustic rendition of this song allows for the vocal performances to come to the foreground and display the ability that Alan Day and Dan O’Connor have. Although the instrumentation is far simpler than the songs original makeup there doesn’t seem to be any loss of quality in between the two very different versions of this song, with each word being just as powerful as they once had been and the new instrumentation allowing for some further internal meaning.

The second half of this duo is Go Down In History; A song which shows FYS taking a different approach to this notion of re-imagining a track, as in this the band find themselves adding in these brief moments of electronic instrumentation. Alongside this, the band switch out from the acoustic to add in this fuller and well toned electric which exists for the most part of the track. Again, as with the first two tracks and any other cuts off of this record the vocal performances are the main thing to keep an eye out for on this song, as with Four Year Strong taking a far more relaxed approach to the vocals they are able to showcase some beautifully crafted vocal melodies whilst also being able to fall back into the rougher vocal performances that they are known for

Following on from this duo is the a trio of tracks which starts with We All Float Down Here. A track which exists as far more than just a simple reimagining of the track that first came on their S/T (Self-Titled) from 2015, as the rendition of the track on this record feels like it is almost a step up from the bands original composition, especially when the band take a step away from the breakdown to focus more on to a country influenced solo.

The second part of this trio is Nice To Know which is not only the first full band song but is also the first new track on the record. The track moves along at a very steady pace with well-orchestrated instrumentation and well-toned guitars which are almost the center piece of the track. At the same time, the band start to mix in some electronic drums and instrumentation. This track is a great addition to the record as the overall composition of the song flows well with the album and what has come before it, but also shows the bands ability to create a cohesive track in and amongst some of their best cuts. The final part of this cut is Who Cares? which is a great unplugged rendition of a song of their 2015 s/t record whose tempo is slightly slower than thre original but also allows for more clarity vocally than what many may be used to from the full band version that sat upon the bands last album.

Let Me Down is another new track that is situated upon Some Of You May Like This…. Musically this track is interesting as it yet again explores more dynamics that the band has shown that they are able to do before. Specifically in this, however, FYS are almost exploring some Alt-Rock ideas whilst sticking to their iconic sound vocally. Overall this song is possibly the best of the new songs that exist on this record as even though the instrumentation feels simple at times none of it is wasted. Everything has a specific purpose.

Following on from the second original track is Stuck In The Middle and so happens to be one of the closest fully unplugged songs that exists on the record. However, even then the change to acoustic forces the band to alter things up, still showing some form of country exploration, which although at first feels odd completely compliments the track and showcases the bands musical ability as the song powers through to the end. Accompanying this is Abandon Ship, which is not only a stripped back version of the title of the song, but also of the song itself. Boiling it down to this very simple and beautifully constructed acoustic track which in a way almost takes on a ballad feeling. Having said that this is unfortunately the weakest track on the record. Even though this by no means is a bad track, as the band explore even more of these country ideas with this waning guitar that occassionaly features in the track as FYS’ vocalists croon on top.

Your Ego Is Writing Checks Your Body Can’t Cash is a song which has existed since the bands EP titled Demo 2006 and despite some slightly higher production the track hasn’t changed all that much. Having said that the instrumentation on this song is beautifully orchestrated which again allows for these chilling vocal melodies to take a hold of the song.  This Summer Session is a similar track which finds its beginnings in the early part of FYS’ discography.

For Our Father’s rounds off what is a spectacular journey through Four Year Strong reimagining tracks and displaying new songs such as this one. For Our Father’s is a powerful and beautifully crafted closer to this record. This song is a haunting cut which sends chills down the spine from the vocal performances which stick in the mind long after this record finishes.

Overall, Some Of You Will Like This // Some Of You Won’t from Four Year Strong has little to no flaws, with them looking back at some of their best songs and them producing three new cuts which are second to none. Four Year Strong do not once drop the ball on this record displaying their ability to create songs out of their normal area of expertise but doing so with finesse. This record is definetly one to check out if you still are or have ever been a fan of the band as there is little to not be loved, from the beautiful vocal performances to the tight and well written instrumentation this album is a joy. [8.5/10]

White Noise Radio – Cosmos – REVIEW

Following their debut EP Bristol based White Noise Radio have been making quite a name for themselves. Now with their new EP, Cosmos, which dropped on the 1st of July promises to be a EP full of ‘rollercoaster riffs and huge choruses’. Now without further ado let’s break down White Noise Radio’s Cosmos.

The opening track on this EP is Siren. A track which perfectly encapsulates the powerful instrumentation and well organized vocals that White Noise Radio (WNR) are capable of producing. The well-orchestrated instrumentation found on this track allows the band to display their heavier composition, accompanying this are these understated, soft yet rough vocals which are coupled by harmonies which compliment the main vocal line well. Despite Siren being a really strong EP opener, which not only sets up what may lay on the rest of this EP but also displays the musical ability of WNR, the excessively long run time drags the song down weakening the musical performances that lie on the track.

Following directly on from this is Gone Inside which is possibly the weakest cut off of this EP. Despite the band yet again showcasing their ability to write a cohesive track with well-orchestrated instrumentation. WNR fail to bring anything new to the table and Alt-Rock band has done before, and in some cases better. The overall makeup of this track is strong and during the second half of the song the band seemingly get the ball rolling again, but in comparison to the opener and what comes after this track Gone Inside feels lack luster. The strongest cut on Cosmos follows in the form of Dawning a track which presents this overall softer sound. This change in dynamic is welcomed and the accompanying vocals match the far more delicate instrumentation allowing Dawning elevate to a new height. Alongside this, the subtle additions of electronic instrumentation only add to the songs overall feel and helps the song move along to the end of its run time.

Closing WNR’s EP is Wires. A song which encompasses the band’s ability in both the heavier and softer instrumentation. However, similarly to the EP’s opener the track does eventually drag on which again drops the strength of this track quite dramatically. Despite these moments of beautiful and well-orchestrated instrumentation, the songs length makes these sections feel repetitive which is a shame considering the strengths of these musical moments. During Wires the vocal textures which are explored are the saving grace for the track as they add this depth and emotion to the track.

Overal White Noise Radio on this record are showing their musical ability and showcasing their ability in creating a cohesive set of tracks which are loaded with highlights both instrumentally and vocally. However, due to the excessiveness of some of the tracks on this EP the band seem to almost lose steam in places which really harshens the experience of this EP, but this EP is definitely worth checking out if you are an Alt-Rock fan. [5.5/10]

Maypine – In The Back Of My Mind

Maypine are a fresh pop punk band from the south of England readying up to release their new EP In The Back Of My Mind before they launch into a UK tour in August.

First track up A Little Sooner sees the band kick off in brazen confidence, with thick guitar and a punchy drum beat. The vocal style is powerful, reminiscent of other prolific UK artists like Decade and HomeboundA Little Sooner has a strong chorus carrying through the song, although it’s lyrical content is nothing groundbreaking.

North / South Divide opens in a similar tone; the production of the EP is very well polished into audible style. The band have a good sense of pace, allowing the song to fall back for a more vocally centered section. The song builds back up to full pace to carry to carry the momentum through to the next track. A gang vocal chorus in Inside Out distinguishes the chorus nicely before rocking back onto a simple but effective riff. That aside, the song does little to stretch the borders of the EP.

Never Far Apart begins with acoustic strumming before the vocals come in over the top. It’s a nice break from the full bodied band sound pushing through the EP so far. The song discusses missing a family member or friend as they grow up, and becomes sincerely heartfelt as the song progresses.

Day After Day has the band stepping back up with renewed vigour. The song deals with un-surety of the future, and is a good continuation from Never Far Apart. It’s the strongest track on the EP, with a solid chorus expresses some of the band’s best songwriting. Day After Day lays In The Back Of My Mind to rest, and it’s easy to see the band closing their sets with this track.

In The Back Of My Mind is an EP which performs consistently even if it does take its time to really show the band at their top potential. The likes of A Little Sooner and Inside Out are good songs, but Maypine come into their own on Day After DayMaypine are certainly a band you’ll be hearing more of.

[7/10]

James Leese – (I Have A…) RomComplex

James Leese is an acoustic singer-songwriting from the West Midlands drawing from the likes of Modern BaseballSorority Noise and more. James released his debut album I Tried, and followed it last summer with The Four Portraits EP. Now, he’s back again with other dose of emotional acoustic, his new EP (I Have A…) RomComplex.

Goodbye introduces the EP, and it’s a subdued, measured track. James strums out a simple but effective melody on the guitar, and croons of loneliness and saying farewell. With a voice full of wistful sorrow, you are drawn into the soundscape of this EP.

500 Days has a more upbeat tune, and James launches in with the metaphor “You slipped, tripped, and I think I fell in love“. Some layered vocals give the song a greater sense of depth than Goodbye, lending something of more weight to the EP. Thematically, we’re not breaking much new ground. It’s a set of songs on love and loss, but they’re performed in such a way that they’re not washed out at all.

The penultimate track is Under Your Window, another song with a jubilant tempo. This ballad dances around in a comforting manner as James sings to the mysterious Diane. (I Have A…) RomComplex finishes with A Song For A Waltz, arguably the EP’s strongest track. More layering makes this track a more three-dimensional, dynamic piece of music. The vocals wax and wane with the guitar, giving a competent sense of harmony. A Song For A Waltz builds to a subtle crescendo, finishing the EP off in great satisfaction.

Sure, there’s not a great deal on (I Have A…) RomComplex that you won’t have heard before. James Leese spins the acoustic genre to his own tune, however, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing EP. There’s four songs here of romance and regret, enjoy them.

[7/10]

Slaughter To Prevail – Misery Sermon [Album Review]

Genres have a tendency to evolve as time goes on, and deathcore is no different albeit you do have to pay a little more attention. Comparing the product now to what it was 10 years ago, you’ll generally find things have just been amped up in every way, much to the origin of the genre itself. The blast beats are faster and the breakdowns slower and it is all overproduced for maximum impact. Slaughter To Prevail represents this evolution in a pretty neat and ugly package.

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Evertim / Fruitcake – Split EP

Who doesn’t love a split EP? Two artists for the price of one, two complementary styles and so much to give. Evertim and Fruitcake, from Brighton and Sussex respectively, are putting out such an EP. Two songs apiece, the two bands work together wonderfully.

With Evertim‘s songs up first, Knots is the opening track. The first striking thing about the EP is the brilliantly apt production. Lending a warm, dynamic sound that brings all the tracks to life. Knots begins with a jovial guitar riff over a thrumming bass before stripping back for a more intricate set of notes to launch into the song proper. Subdued vocals give way to a climactic chorus, it’s subtly powerful.

The shot you’re missing is Evertim‘s second song, beginning with a similar structure. The vocals are more foregrounded here however, and the track in general holds a more rock-oriented vibe. It’s a slightly angrier song, calling out racism, homophobia and media agenda. Abrasive and thoroughly un-ironic, it’s an anthemic track full of ululating riffs and poignant drumming.

Up step Fruitcake with a punk goes twinkly-emo style. The dad bod is in sees some fiddly guitar melodies backing rougher vocals, and the contrast works very nicely. A slow breakdown brings variation to the song before it builds slowly back repeating the chorus lines. It’s a slightly messy track, but in a thoroughly well executed manner.

The final track on the EP is No more food songs. Stylistically it is similar to Fruitcake‘s previous track, with prominent vocals presiding over a decidedly buoyant backing track. The pinnacle of the song is a rhythmic blend of upbeat guitar, twanging bass and well placed drumming notes. Full bodied and unafraid, it’s a great way to finish.

Complete with tongue in cheek song names, Evertim and Fruitcake‘s split is bundled full of warmth and entertainment. It’s an EP that you’ll find yourself returning to, perhaps without knowing quite why. In a quiet manner, both bands have written excellent tracks that enhance each other magnificently.

[8/10]