Monday, 20 May 2019

'Dismiss' by Cold Showers

The new video release from LA based synth pop band Cold Showers for single 'Dismiss'

The album is a fine amalgamation of pop influences from the 1980s and to present day, in the same vein as White Lies there is a sombreness to this pop with strands of euphoria reaching up to the sky.

Cold Showers are one of those bands that sound like they are from the North of England, where the bleakness has fed into the songwriting - when the band hails from Los Angeles where that mix of sunshine and isolation becomes a winning combination.

Lead single, 'Shine' is one of those anthemic pop songs that will feed into your ears and much like the maligned 'Simplify' by Young The Giant - a song that should be sung by many a festival crowd.

'Dismiss' is more about a relationship near its darkest point before the inevitable parting, yet it still has that europhic edge. Dating back from 2013, the band decided to re-record it for the new album 'Motionless' out on May 24th from Dais Records.

Opening with a riff reminiscent of Johnny Marr and The Smiths, with lonely vocals this is nevertheless a gripping piece of pop-rock music.

The band tour with Tamaryn in May -The Shacklewell Arms on 25th May; Broadcast, Glasgow May 27th; Night People, Manchester on 28th May and The Lanes, Bristol on 29th May.

My thanks to One Beat PR for the review opportunity.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Living Theatre - Olden Yolk

The second album from duo Olden Yolk is out from Trouble in Mind on 19th May

Following on from the debut self-titled album in 2018, the duo of Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer return with their second dose of warm harmonies and gorgeous minimalism.

While the debut album showed an air of vivid lyricism and artists in love with the world as well as people it was very much about the contemporary world they inhabited in New York. The sophomore album shows the pair growing as a tandem and away from the minimalism, creating these larger expressions of expansive creativity as they toured the world.

The songwriting of Butler/Shaffer has grown to embrace the electronic world with a cinematic eye embracing avant garde punk and folk.

The lead single, 'Cotton and Cane' was a reach for the mainstream an infectious ditty of pop that has this wonderful second verse that is never-ending culminating in a crescendo, the accompanying video showed an affection for Ken Russell and the Nouvelle Vague.

Written in a feverish three month period by the pair (much like Rayland Baxter) it shows the power of communication and collaboration and shows in this wonderful album full of colour whereas the debut album much like its album cover was more still and greyer in terms of tone.

Living Theatre is out from Trouble in Mind on 17th May and they are on tour in the UK in October.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Dark Sacred Night

Michael Connelly returns with the latest novel featuring Detective Harry Bosch

Set in and around Los Angeles, Bosch is not necessarily the lead protagonist of this novel. He is partnered up with the younger female Renee Ballard, a detective who must navigate the dreaded graveyard shift.

The wonderful plot device that Connelly uses is that we have the dual threat of following both Bosch and Ballard as they go around investigating, and while Bosch can seemingly focus all his efforts on solving the case of Daisy Clayton, a murder case that has not been solved for 10 years.

Ballard is used as a political statement - a younger member of the police force who must navigate all various channels of enquiry as well as the actual beat of hitting the street and resolving disputes. 

In the middle part of the book, Ballard investigates the disappearance of an elected official's son; she visits the apartment where he resides, questions the room-mate and then notices a rug has been moved.  It shows that the flat-mate has murdered the missing son, this is great writing and shows the ingenuity and intelligence of Ballard in such matters, in another chapter she attends a strip joint that is worried about someone breaking in and robbing them, this turns out to be youths sneaking a peek at female flesh.

This constant dipping in and out of actual day to day work away from the deeper dive into the Clayton murder case keeps the reader on its toes while appreciating the sincerity of Ballard married with the sheer doggedness of Bosch - a nice union which has perhaps breathed new life into the old sage. A sequel or new book the The Night Fire is out in October of this year

Image result for michael connelly

Connelly shares the writing style of contemporaries Child and James Patterson, it is quick and zips along at a clip that allows the book to be devoured in several sittings.  Like James Ellroy who famously writes about Los Angeles and Hollywood, Connelly writes about the city using the vast landscape of the sprawling cityscape to his advantage with a milieu of background characters and cameos breathing life into the story whenever needed.

Dark Sacred Night is one of those thrilling books that can be perfect for the beach or the bedroom, a master storyteller at the peak of his powers.

Out from Orion Books in Paperback from 16th May.

My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the review opportunity and being part of the blog tour

Friday, 10 May 2019

White Gold - David Barker

White Gold

Sim Atkins returns in the concluding part of the Gaia Trilogy by David Barker, out from Urbane Publications

David Barker returns with the final part of his trilogy of books featuring everyman action hero Sim Atkins who must stop terrorism while working for the Water Department

The action takes up a few days after the conclusion of Book 2 - Rose Gold - the thriller set on a Moon base where Sim stopped a suicide bomber destroying the base and exposing crew to an ebola virus; but not being able to stop the death of his child in the wake of this.

Atkins returns to Earth, and goes home to his new wife Rosie, and wants to be able to have a normal sort of work life balance now; yet the threat of corruption and global terrorism is never far away.

Mattias Larsson, a Swedish mogul, is eager for the plan which started with the moon attack to move forwards regardless of the set back. This includes the use of a hollow iceberg which is brought to the attention of the submarine Endeavour captained by the enigmatic,

Not to forget the unsung hero of the trilogy, Freda Brightwell, who was left in a Russian gulag and awaiting a co-ordinated jail break by Wardle who oversees all of his work from his base in Birmingham.

Barker again is able to crank up the thriller and action elements to maximum effect; swiftly shifting from differing landscapes with ease and clarity as we bare witness to jail breaks, hovering drones able to carry adults, shifty moles and snappy dialogue on land, sea and underwater.

Culminating in the classic race against time narrative, and featuring a neat resolution Barker who grew up on larger-than-life antics of Connery and Moore as 007, has created a believable hero in Atkins - a man like us all able to achieve extraordinary things when the odds are against you.

Written with a brevity similar to more renowned page turners, Barker has delivered a succinct and satisfying conclusion to his thrilling trilogy with assuredness and poise.

White Gold is out from Urbane Publications from Thursday 9th May.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Pond Life

Directed by Bill Buckhurst and written by Richard Cameron based on his own stage play; POND LIFE tells the story of a summer tale in 1994 in the North of England as teenagers have a summer of fun as life begins to take hold.

Trevor sits at Decoy Ponds awaiting the presence of the legendary carp, Nessie. Trevor is the adult of the group a man in his early 20s but with no room at his home, needs to make a life decision. He is surrounded by younger children, Pogo the enigmatic young girl who records audio as she takes walks; Trevor's sister Cassie is kissing Maurice and Malcolm is also in love with Cassie, as he imagines transporting himself telepathically into her bedroom and learning the words to Wet Wet Wet's dominating hit single 'Love Is All Around'

Buckhurst shoots the film with a rose-tinted view, this is a beautiful summer with no rain, the only pain being behind closed doors as familial struggles are common place.

Yet, for a setting where the socio-cultural climate is changing as this mining town comes to terms with its new status without the landmark pit industry about, families struggle to make ends meat and end up down the local working man's club most nights to play bingo and win the meat raffle.

These little moments and observations elevate this film above the normal, helped in no part to the excellent acting turns by the young cast mostly Esme Creed-Miles as Pogo and Angus Imrie as Malcolm; these stunning turns of youth disorientated by the growing world around them as they combat love and loss.

Richard Hawley composes a sumptuous soundtrack to couple the film's summer tinge; and this viewer was left with a warm feeling that exceeded expectations.

POND LIFE is out now in selected cinemas.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

Thomas Hocknell's 2nd tale of The Life Assistance Agency is out now from Urbane Publications

Hocknell returns with the Agency eager to stay away from anything involving angels following the fallout of the first novel's conclusion in Prague.

Ben and Scott though are drawn into another angelic tale when the phone rings and they are asked to write the autobiography of a 1980s has-been pop star from the band Elev-8.  When they meet said pop star, they also encounter 'Blind' Billy Fury a wrestler and his pretty assistant, Amber.

What follows is a very droll and story which is full of witty observations of life itself, understanding your place in the role. Ben the main protagonist of the lead pair, becomes a puppy dog when he encounters Amber and while he is not looking for love, he did not know he was until he saw her.

The back and forth of dialogue is done cleverly without forcing narrative nor plot, the characters are the ones who force this plotline.  The reveal of the plot about forty pages from the end, is a nicely done twist which hits Ben and Scott over the head like an anvil falling from the sky upon Wily. E. Coyote.

This is written with a real clarity and brevity which is rare to see, partly because it is an intriguing set-up and Hocknell likes his characters; not treating them with disdain for being cynical at times but embracing that personality he has imparted upon them.

Unfinished Business is a win-win for Hocknell; a great continuation and sequel to his first book and the start of a true series to follow.

Out now from Urbane Books and available on all formats at Amazon.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Where The Dead Fall

MJ Lee's second DI Ridpath novel WHERE THE DEAD FALL is out from Canelo in April 2019

This exciting new novel is in keeping with a renaissance of British crime writing which had laid dormant following the unprecedented success of Inspector Rebus. Whereas, those memorable series of books by Ian Rankin where driven by the lead character at the helm; the resurgence spearheaded by A.A. Dhand and Joseph Knox has seen characters from different backgrounds come front and centre yet these men have been grafted from the landscape they reside in.

Away from the metropolitan mess of London; these novels are showing us a sign of Britain in dire straits - in Leeds and Manchester, crime is just as rampant and they need policemen to be the law.  The men though have their own demons to combat; whilst Rebus saw solace at the bottom of the bottle, Harry Virdek in Leeds most combat racial prejudice and Aidan Watts (Knox) in Manchester must overcome his drug affliction.

DI Ridpath in Manchester is no different, a long serving detective who has to overcome personal struggle and the pull of wanting to see his growing daughter more which is putting a strain on his married life.  Ridpath must overcome the cancer scare he suffered in the first novel, and we see him returning home.

At the start of Where The Dead Fall, we encounter Ridpath travelling back to Manchester from a rehab centre looking forward to seeing his family; travelling on the rush hour roads on the same night as a Manchester United match and stuck in traffic, he sees a near-naked man running across the carriageway running away from something. Ridpath sees a shooter tailing the man, or did he, and in an instant a life is crushed and Ridpath is slap bang in the middle of it all, when he just wants a quiet road back to balance.

Lee has woven a gripping rip-roaring novel that was devoured by this reader in four large chunks - characters are rendered efficiently and the everyman Ridpath is a sympathetic character to get behind.  Featuring a unique forensic pathologist who is a growing child in adult form; gang warfare and daily traffic gridlock this is a tale of our time - frustration for many with paperwork being tied up and the grind of office politics.

Lee crafts a picture of Manchester much like Lowry one of dourness, rain, darkness and yet one full of life and character with football very much (sometimes) the centre of the universe.  This may only be the second of the series but I cannot wait to read more of him in the future.

Grab this book for your holiday read or just a page turner to get away from the April showers.
Where The Dead Fall is out now from Canelo.
MJ Lee can be followed on Twitter @WriterMJLee
My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the review copy and opportunity to be on the Blog Tour