Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Okkervil River 'In The Rainbow Rain'

Okkervil River releases new album In the Rainbow Rain on ATO Records.

The American musician, Will Sheff, under the guise of Okkervil River returns with his new studio album. Produced by Sheff himself, the new album is a step up in songwriting form, as too long under the radar, Sheff is making a break for the mainstream by producing an album that is relatable and singles that are radio-friendly and have that unique ear-worm quality.

Coupled with luscious productions, there are swooning synths and bombastic guitar licks, married with some great vocal work by Sheff himself and on backing vocals, most notably on the epic 'The Dream and the Light'.  

Driving melodic anthems appear in 'Love Somebody' and 'Pulled by the Ribbon' along with lead single 'Don't Move Back to LA'; there is an emotional vulnerability running through the music. A need to understand where Sheff was when he started writing the album was late 2016 after Donald Trump was elected. 

With touring ending, the band reconvened to Brooklyn and for the first time Sheff wrote with the band, and the wave of collaboration is running through the album, no less on 'Family Song', and the songs sing as this sense of unity and togetherness comes out of the speakers.

Whilst there are moments of anger and disconnect within the album, these are off-set by the uplifting moments of euphoric joy which makes it a pleasing record to listen to and one you go back to for several listens. 

Mixed by Shawn Everett - who has worked with The War on Drugs - it also has that hook-worthy notion reminiscent of Elbow and Ed Harcourt's work.

Will Sheff - Okkervil River's under-rated songwriter

An album that is indicative of the changing socio-political climate in America; one that is looking towards the horizon rather than worrying about the here and now. The idealist virtue prevalent in American culture is strong in this brilliant new album.  For this reviewer, it may well be one of the best albums of 2018.

You get the feeling that this would be a great album to hear live. Okkervil River tour Britain in early October stopping off at Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, Brighton and culminating with a headline show at Koko, Camden on October 10th.

In The Rainbow Rain is out from ATO Records on 27th April.

My thanks to One Beat PR for the review opportunity.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Amber Arcades 'Simple Song'

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Today, Amber Arcades (Annelotte De Graaf) released details of her second studio album, European Heartbreak, set for release on 28th September 2018 via Heavenly Recordings.

In conjunction, with today's thrilling news, Amber Arcades also shares new single, 'Simple Song' with accompanying video. This video is part two of a trilogy of videos where all three intertwine, the first being Goodnight Europe

The new album was recorded and produced with Chris Cohen in LA and Richmond, Virginia with Trey Pollard.  A step forward from the critically acclaimed Fading Lines, the album is European thematically and in the sophistication of the music constructed.

This is ushered in by the video which show the love affair we have with balmy European holidays, the romanticism of love overseas and the sunny disposition of being away.  The memory of such events are felt in the music about new love, love lost and the way memory plays tricks on you.  In that way it promises to be both truthful and disarmingly powerful.

Amber Arcades is playing some intimate shows in UK and Europe before summer festivals, landing in London at Omeara on June 7th.

Follow Amber Arcades on Twitter @AmberArcades

Spurs-y: When is a Choke not a Choke

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You have a lot of ups and downs being a Tottenham Hotspur fan, more downs than ups in my lifetime. Things could be worse, I've never seen my team get relegated but they have only won three trophies in my lifetime since I started going - 1991, 1999 and 2008. I don't count the cup trophies of 1982 and 1984 as I was busy rolling around myself.

Yet the most recent Spurs defeat in an FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United (21-4-18) was not your typical Spurs-y performance; it was not the sort of game where they went all Spurs-y and threw it away.  The only circumstance was they threw away a position of superiority and did not see it out, but this was against a team who wanted to win the game versus a side who wanted to play football.

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This has been the criticism of Tottenham in recent years, they like to play football and yet cannot do the things you need to do to win vital football matches. For all the stats of possession and territory translating to shots on target, there remains a lack of composure in the final third.

In the season when Leicester City won the league, they came to White Hart Lane and won 1-0 due a set-piece goal after Tottenham had dominated. Leicester soaked up pressure, got one chance and converted it. At that moment, the game did not seem important until it was important.

Tottenham again find themselves in moments of superiority and yet cannot convert into dominance or victory, before they took the lead on Saturday they were in the ascendancy and yet did not force De Gea into many saves with off-target attempts.  They finished the first half on the front foot including an Eric Dier effort hitting the bottom of a post.

In the second half, more pressure was undone by Manchester United converting their first chance of the half and then it was down to Tottenham to breakdown a stoic resistance of a familiar Mourinho side.

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And yet the team struggled to find an fluidity or cohesion, trying to pass through a resolute back-line without little success failing to utilise the width and delivery of Kieran Trippier.  Whilst Pochettino may be at fault for not starting Toby Alderwield on Saturday, there were not many options on the bench to change the game - Erik Lamela has had an indifferent run of form, Lucas Moura is good on the ball but not electric in the box and there was no out and out striker to score a goal.

The reliance on Harry Kane reared its head again and he was unusually absent throughout the game, Christian Eriksen was hounded in possession and Moussa Dembele was outmuscled and below par.

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Oddly, the goal came from a long ball from Davison Sanchez which found Eriksen in acres of pitch to pass to Alli unmarked in the box to convert the first goal.  Reminiscent of Alli's goal versus Chelsea which also came from a long ball; the pragmatism to remain loyal to the passing and movement led to our downfall as we were over-run in midfield by Pogba, Matic and Herrera.

Pochettino can do only so much to prepare his troops for these big games, but until they win a big one, those questions will circulate constantly from naysayers and critics.  Another season without a trophy leaves a bitter pill, but a close season with more additions may make it easier to swallow. I have been lucky enough to see Tottenham captains lift trophies three times at Wembley. It has been 10 years since the last, how long must we wait for the next?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Night Flowers 'Wild Notion'

Debut Album Wild Notion out now from Dirty Bingo Records

Following a string of sold out singles, London indie popsters Night Flowers release their debut album Wild Notion on Dirty Bingo Records - written in various basements and bedsits, the album is one of those gems you must seek out and may well fall in love to.

When I was given a link to this album it was during the month of March in London, which saw an obscene amount of snow and rainfall throughout the city and country.  Then the link to Wild Notion, came along and it instantly got me excited for the summer; the album is full of dreamscapes, futuristic hooks and has a sense of sunshine flowing throughout.

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Fronted by vocalist Sophie Pettit, the band are originally from Hull and that being placed near the sea helps explain the romanticism of the music throughout, sitting on beaches looking at horizons can create energy and wonder.  Guitarist Greg Ullyart says,

'The album deals with time, place and memory. The memory often plays tricks and blurs the lines between present, past and future tense, and sometimes when you're writing, it's only with hindsight you can see what you were writing about. The songs put a few demons to bed.'

From the shimmering opener 'Sandcastles' to the lead single 'Losing the Light' there is an over-riding sense of play and love pouring through the speakers.  It is good to hear an opener such as 'Sandcastles' a statement of intent by a band to be heard and yet keep that smile on your face for the album's entirety; too often a band will start with something mysterious which may well alientate listeners whereas this is indeed what they want you to feel.

Other good songs include 'Fireworks' and 'Hey Love' with the album culminating with the epic 'Cruel Wind' a seven-minute crescendo for a band which is hopefully the play-off music at their gigs.

This reviewer cannot speak highly enough of this album, one of joy, one of pop and one of optimism which in this world of myriad paranoia and angst cannot be ignored and should be embraced by music lovers everywhere.

My thanks to One Beat PR for the review link

Night Flowers will be performing at The Lexington, London for an album release show on Friday 27th April

In Our Mad and Furious City

In Our Mad and Furious City (Hardback)

Guy Gunaratne's debut novel is out from Headline on Thursday 19th April

In Our Mad and Furious City tells the tale of 48 hours in the life of a council estate, Stones Estate, through the eyes of different young people who inhabit the estate from different cultural and religious backgrounds - Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf.

Each young man has a story to tell, and they all have aspirations to better themselves be it through sporting or musical endeavours; the young men are successors of the British Angry Young man of the 1960s - those created by the society around them and taking the influence of that society to craft a new image or mindset.

Gunaratne has crafted a brave, socially aware and prescient novel; one that is rich in the history of London - and to a greater extent British - immigration, a place that is full of diversity but unwilling to embrace these social changes as it threatens the norm.

It is aware of where it comes from, being written by a member of an ethnic group; it is brave in the sense that during his debut he has decided to write from many different voices. Apart from the three young men we encounter mostly; he also writes in the voice of females and elders.

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This spell-binding novel is dripping with the location in which it is set, unafraid to show the world as it is now, a world that is fearful, paranoid and angry.

It will be a book that will be made into a mini-series no doubt, yet it should be read by any and all as it is a novel of such supreme confidence and certainty unlike any debut novel you would have encountered in recent times.

IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY is released by Headline on Thursday 19th April