Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ben Kane 'Clash of Empires'

Clash of Empires

This is the first book in a new series by historical fiction author Ben Kane.

The historical details, which you can find at the end of the book in the Author's Note, concerning this wonderful story are very well researched and documented, and these details are superbly implemented within this great historical tale.

At the beginning of the book you'll notice two well-drawn maps of the Kingdom of Macedon and of Asia Minor and the Propontis, both in 202 BC, and besides that there's a short note from the author himself about the two maps at the end papers of the book, front Latin and back Greek.

The book starts with a very interesting prologue situated in the year 215 BC, before the book, which is divided into 4 parts, begins to flourish into a magnificent story that starts in the year 202 BC and will end in the year 198 BC.

Parts 1 and 2 are divided into 4 main streams; the first one being King Philip V of Macedon, who's trying to emulate his forebears King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, by recapturing all of Greece and beyond; the second being Demetrios, after having been a rower in the army of King Philip is now due to a lucky encounter with Simonides a phalangist in that same Macedonian army; the third being Senator Flamininus, who's doing all he can to become Consul and win glory for himself by defeating Philip and the Macedonians; and finally fourth the brothers Felix and Antonius, who after having defeated the Carthaginians at Zama are dishonourably discharged after falling asleep on sentry duty, and now they've enlisted themselves with the Legions who will invade Greece and will be fighting the Macedonians.

In parts 3 and 4 we find King Philip V of Macedon and his Macedonians, with Demetrios in their midst, in war in Greece against the Roman legions, lead by Consul Flamininus, and with Felix and Antonius in their midst, where battles will be fought to the death, causing lots of casualties.

Kane, much like his peers Simon Scarrow and Bernard Cornwell, is able to structure a well told tale with characters you can sympathise for with dialogue that rips along as well as painting a great picture of a changing world.

Clash of Empires is out in paperback from Orion Books.

My thanks to Compulsive Readers book blog for the review copy.

Piroshka 'Brickbat'

Piroshka - Brickbat

Debut album from Piroshka, a distinct musical quartet, released from Bella Union on 15th February

Piroshka are a collaboration of four artists from wide ranging backgrounds across the late 20th century; the four band members are Miki Berenyi (Lush vocalist/guitarist), KJ 'Moose' McKillop (Moose guitarist), Mick Conroy (Modern English bassist) and Justin Welch (Elastica drummer).

This variety of backgrounds from the individual members has created an album which is both thrilling, enticing and intellectual.  Thrust forward by Berenyi's own distinctive voice, the band have curated an album of pleasing hooks which will make listeners reminisce of female led groups with this reviewer being fondly recalled of The Long Blondes and Kate Jackson's delivery.

While the lead track 'This Must Be Bedlam' starts off with a ferocious feedback this is not a punk record; instead there is a delicate way about the songs none more so than on 'Everlastingly Yours' a love song which reaches heights thanks to the vocal delivery.

The track titles may well speak towards friction and there is a political context running throughout - 'This Must Be Bedlam' is about Brexit; 'Village of the Damned' is about school shootings and 'Never Enough' rails against greed and inequality. This is an album speaking of mature and societal themes due to the adults within the group - this is a band by adults for adults.

Full of powerful rock basslines and with a rare combination of harmony and punk; this is an album that should garner praise from musos and for those seeking something off the beaten track.

Brickbat is out from Bella Union on 15th February.
My thanks to OneBeatPR for the audio/review link.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

White Lies 'Five'

Some years ago, the band had a massive hit with single 'Fairground' and were set to break the ceiling; yet it did not happen.  That has not stopped the band writing and have created a nine-track album that is the broadest and most commercial friendly songs they may well have written; an album full of an expansive sound declaring a new territory both artistically and commercially.

It takes a bold band to have as the opening track to a highly anticipated album be a plus-seven minute track but in 'Time To Give' you get a statement of intent from White Lies, in that this is our belief that you will like this music so if they make an attention grabbing opener then they are onto a winner.

There are numerous highs in the album from 'Finish Line' to the excellent 'Tokyo' which maintains a grip on the listener as the work navigates lyrics of alienation and loneliness in this world of ever decreasing circles due to the domination of social media.

White Lies (L-R) - Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums), Harry McVeigh (lead vocals/guitar) and Charles Cave (bass/vocals)

White Lies though make a claim that you are not alone in this world, you can be loved, you can love in return and this comes to ahead with penultimate album track 'Believe It' - the lead single of the album and a song that is the earworm of the record - a hummable, toe-tapping thumper of a track that will grow beyond this album's life and be the song audiences will clamber to hear on the upcoming British tour in February by the group.

This is an album of genuine elation and joy driven by an amalgamation of electronica and guitar reminiscent of Depeche Mode married with the club nuance of Bastille and euphoric reach of Editors.

Five is out from 1st February from PIAS Recordings.
They tour Britain and Ireland through February and late March

My thanks to One Beat PR for the audio link and chance to review.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Hunting Party

Lucy Foley's debut thriller is set to be one of the great thrilling reads of 2019

British crime novel writing is going through a vanguard or renaissance period currently, be it from the loner detective in Joseph Knox's Manchester set crime novels; to A.A. Dhand's Yorkshire set crime epics; and there is great representation by Fiona Barton from the female writers of these shores.

Set over a New Year's weekend of celebrations, Foley takes her protagonists away from their sheltered happy self-important London existence of wealth and privilege, dropping them into a remote part of the Scottish Highlands where they hope to engage in fun and frivolity over the four day weekend.

From the outset, the nine people she gives to us are of a millennial sort - highly educated having all met at university in Cambridge, in great employment and a better life than Riley.

The hope is that this is one last hurrah for the group before children and other responsibilities stop them in their tracks; and yet a swift blizzard puts pay to that as cabin fever sets in and the abundance of alcohol brings up resentment and old secrets amongst the group.

Atmospherically set amongst the vast landscape of a cold bleak Highland setting, Foley cleverly weaves an ever-changing narrative flash forwarding and backwards amongst many of the characters, this offers us different voices to listen to prompting quite a challenge for the debut author to maintain this flow of narrative.

From prissy Miranda, to quieter Katie, to lodge host Heather and gamekeeper Doug; Foley writes confidently in all these voices garnering quite a range of motives from all.

The anticipation for this novel has been met by the finished article here, and it is great to see a riveting example of crime fiction by a British female in the same vein as American Shari Lapena, Foley will be able to be heralded in the same company as Fiona Barton on the evidence of this first stab at crime novel writing.

The Hunting Party is out now Harper Collins in Hardback, Ebook

Eerie Wanda 'Pet Town'

Eerie Wanda returns with her second album, Pet Town, released from Joyful Noise on 25th January.

Eerie Wanda is the brainchild of audio and visual artist Marina Tadic, born to Croatian parents and resides now in the Netherlands.

Her second LP, following her 2016 debut Hum, is a credit to creativity fostered in isolation. Tadic along with band mates - Jasper Verhulst and Jeroen de Heuvel - utilises minimal recording techniques incorporating her unique vocal quality to create ten songs of loneliness yet become jaunty warm numbers.

Lyrics cover topics such as boredom to isolation, to a love of hometown and why it keeps calling you back yet based around the notion of solitiude.  Yet there is a drive and determination to this record which can be heard on tracks such as 'Magnetic Woman' with its lovely harmonies and repeating basslines, to the wistful 'Moon' which winningly shows Tadic's vocal dexterity.

Eerie Wanda - Marina Tadic 

From title track, 'Pet Town' there is a perkiness about the album helped by the homespun sounds of repeating handclaps, finger snaps - as heard in 'Rockabiller'.  This sunny feeling is in contrast to the aforementioned lyrics of remoteness, but this juxtaposition and mesh of contrasting emotions makes for a record that is both winning and reassuring.

Pet Town is available from Joyful Noise Records

Monday, 21 January 2019

Night Beats 'Myth of a Man'

Newly released from Heavenly Recordings, the third album from Texan native Danny Lee Backwell under the moniker Night Beats shows the musician take a different direction in his musicality. From the bloodshot acid tip of Sonic Bloom (2013) and Who Sold My Generation (2016), there is an alteration in Backwell's output.

Produced by The Black Keys Dan Auerbach, this is music of a man who is both vulnerable yet tender; romantic yet pure - combining elements of the best of Americana - rhythm and blues, 60s rock and pop with a smidgen of the lyricism of The Last Shadow Puppets - this is an album which is proof of an artist who is at times not possible to categorise.

From album opener 'Her Cold Cold Heart' to 'Stand With Me' there is an earnestness that is not fawning but more bright in its composition. There are introvert moments of reflection such 'There She Goes' and '(Am I Just) Wasting My Time' but this is a shot of Texan blues that is great to see and share; whilst you still have the groove on lead single 'One Thing'

Night Beats is touring in the UK in early February starting at The Dome in London on 6th February culminating on 12th February at The Bodega, Nottingham with stops in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham.

Myth of a Man is out now from Heavenly Recordings and it is certainly worth a half hour of your time on this punchy and memorable record.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Black Country, New Road - New single

This debut single by new London six-piece Black Country, New Road entitled 'Athen's, France' is one of the weirdest, yet most delightful songs I have heard in a long time.

From the critically acclaimed Speedy Wunderground record label based out of the Brixton and surrounding areas - this single is another string to their ecletic bow.

This is a sprawling epic of young life in London, talking about sex and the fear of it -
an ever expanding world as horizons broaden. This track starts off one way and yet goes down other unexpected avenues reminiscent of a labyrinth with no clear direction or reckoning of where it will go.

The single is out on limited 7" vinyl (250 copies) and digital from 8th March via Speedy Wunderground.  The expression is symptomatic of the turnaround of the song production which was produced in a session on a Sunday in January 2019, having only been written the day before then mastered/mixed on the Wednesday after.  The urgency is captured in this snapshot of young life.

Black Country, New Road have some live dates including 26th January at Moth Club, Hackney a huge all-dayer event at Label Mates Festival. Tickets are available here 

My thanks to One Beat PR for the link.