Monday, 29 November 2010

Charly Coombes and the New Breed 'Waves' EP (2010)

Charly Coombes and the New Breed returns with their second EP, Waves, a searing follow up and welcome return to their debut EP Panic. Set for general release today.

Having been blown away by their previous EP, I had high hopes for the lovely Oxford bunch, and from the outset CCATNB’s sound has aged with distinction, and like a good wine, they seem to have gotten better with time. Opening with their current single Jungles and Tides, there is a familiar tone to their now recognisable style-keys driven with an up tempo dose of guitar and drums. The track marks a slight departure from their previous EP Panic which saw CCATNB become established as one of the UK’s most promising bands to shine for a while.

God Knows is classic CCATNB, and defines the EP as their well oiled sound that goes down a treat at their live gigs. For fans of Supergrass and 90s indie rock, a time not long past, yet apparently forgotten, it’s a pleasant reminder of how the independent music scene used to sound before things all got a bit emo, and the music was lost somehow. Sub-Rosa I believe is the crescendo of the EP, drawing the mind and ears into a reflective tone, with beautiful key led melodies that show Coombes’ skill and passion for a narrative, and his unparalleled understanding of how to make a track clutch at your senses, without the overload. The track holds the band high above the many, many faceless guitar bands out there at the moment. Keys it seems, and honest soul filled vocals are a good thing. Molly harks a heart that can’t be ignored, and brings the EP to an all too quick end, reminding me why many bands don’t compete with the New Breed.

Friday, 26 November 2010

AWOLNATION 'Back From Earth' EP (2010)

AWOLNATION – the eclectic brain child of Aaron Bruno’s multifaceted musical endeavours – originally hails from California, having previously fronted Under the Influence of Giants, but to categorise and decipher where AWOLNATION fits in a specific genre would be both limiting and tricky to the sound of their debut EP, Back From Earth.

First single and track is Burn it Down, the floor filling and synthesised mash up of musical tastes gone to the extreme – it’s pretty clear Bruno likes his ears to party, and to party hard. It would be difficult to not shake it, but there’s a definite darker tone to Burn it Down, slithering and looming within the bass, waiting to pounce. Guilty Filthy Soul is a guiltless foray into pop at its dirtiest, with its clean beats and solid chorus. Sail gleams as the stand out track, showcasing Bruno as a man taking more than just a stab in the dark at assaulting the ears of the chart pushers; whereas MF is the fun-fuelled and electric laced track that might prove the most reticent with the disco masses.

With an air of Beastie Boys creeping through the beats and scrawling through various genres, (from hip hop, rock, disco, pop or dance) it’s clear Bruno’s AWOLNATION hits those slick notes, with his vast musical tastes tapped into what keeps the floors filled, and the kids happy. He’s also enrolled Sam Ronson on remixing duties, and Wale are on board. So the question is, now he’s Back from Earth, where to next for AWOLNATION?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Little Fish, The Old Blue Last, London, 02.11.10

The Old Blue Last pub, just off Old Street is a descent venue, a 120 capacity pub and live music venue owned by VICE Magazine, having recently undergone a refurb. Sure the stage area is small and the dressing rooms a little neglected, but the atmosphere is warm, the toilets work and there’s something about the place that reminds me just why live music is so great.

The main reason I’m here is to see Little Fish, an Oxford based duo who have recently confirmed they’re a three piece with the permanent addition of their Hammond player, Ben Walker. Before they hit the stage, support act AWOLNATION threw an unexpected blistering thirty minute set. Hailing from America to promote their debut EP Back from Earth, and in good spirits, the band got a relatively meek crowd’s heads bopping and hips shaking. Opening with their fan pleaser Guilty Filthy Soul, their set merged dance beats, killer hooks and catchy rhythms, it’s clear this band have got energy, bags of charisma, and a hot lead singer. Off to a good start then, and one to keep an eye on.

On to Little Fish, who took to the stage after a swift set change, bringing out the bigger drums and bigger guns it would seem. Opening with the title track to their debut album Baffled and Beat, it didn’t take long for the room to fully get into the swing of the night. A couple of tracks in, and the floor was literally jumping with the crowd lapping up every ounce of sweat pouring from the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Julia ‘Juju’ Sophie never once showed sings of waning. Her vocals spilling over with raw emotion, it’s clear she absolutely loves what she does. The drums, courtesy of Nez Greenaway, thunder throughout the set, only letting up during the momentary softer close to a few tracks. Hammond in tow surges from back of stage through Little Fish’s explosive ferocity, bringing extra solidity to their sound, and allows them to sit comfortably above many other garage bands out there today.

Stand out tracks of the night include the vastly popular Darling Dear, Whiplash, and the sonically awesome Die Young, which confirms how far the trio have come, whilst retaining their classic stripped roots that scream a passion for conviction, since their debut EP Darling Dear last year. It’s tough not to compare Juju’s vocal ability and physical prowess to other women in rock, like Juliette Lewis and Courtney Love, both of which Little Fish have toured with, and why not? There aren’t enough women out there packing a rock and roll punch these days, and Little Fish aren’t scared to get their fisty cuffs out. If you like your rock hitting the garage mark hard, then head on down to their next gig and bring your dancing shoes. Brilliant.

Check out my interview with lead singer/guitarist Juju here:

Their debut album Baffled and Beat is out now and released on Custard Records/Island.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Alain Johannes 'Spark' (2010)

Originally published for Amelia's Magazine.

Master guitarist and don to the desert rock producing world, Alain Johannes takes to the skies with his debut record Spark.

You might not know it, but you know Alain Johannes. Producer and artist extraordinaire, having previously produced and collaborated with the infamous Queens of the Stone Age; No Doubt, PJ Harvey, Eleven, and toured with the super group Them Crooked Vultures earlier this year, Johannes is renowned throughout many rock circles for his mesmerising guitar skills, which in March of this year had me caught in a spell during a musical intermission of the Crooked Vultures’ intense set. Thinking Johannes was a brave man to compete with the likes of Grohl, Homme and Jones, I was left blown away by his talent and unequivocal sound.

Making a stand in his own right, Johannes recently released his debut record Spark, co released with Dangerbird Records and Rekords Rekords, the latter label set up by fellow musical maestro Josh Homme of QOTSA and Them Crooked Vultures fame. This is definitely a family affair, and what an awesome family. Dedicating his debut record to his late wife and producing partner Natasha Shneider, fellow Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal collaborator, there is a great sense of magnitude, of heartfelt pain and strength that breathes through the tracks. First track and single Endless Eyes is a beautifully and eloquent tribute to Natasha, and sets the tone for the entire record. Johannes’ signature cigar box guitar creates such a definitive sound it’s refreshing to describe as innovative and enchanting. However stand out tracks include Return to You, which has an unashamed Beatles-esque tone to it, bringing an air of nostalgia and warmth to the record, which can’t be a bad thing.

The record stealing guitar crescendo of a masterpiece to my ears is the incredible Speechless, which builds with such classical and flamenco ferocity; it’s topped by Johannes’ elegant vocals that beautifully complete the ghostly track. Gentle Ghosts draws the record toward its close, but not without a trek through a sensory mind field that awakes the goose bumps scheduled for truly remarkable artists. There’s so much passion and raw emotion surging through Spark, its hard not to feel a greater sense of appreciation. Closing with Unfinished Plan, a classical guitar led cathartic and heartbreaking end to a brilliant debut.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield