Tag Archives: Review

nickel-creek-a-dotted-line

Album Review: Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line (Nonesuch Records)

nickel-creek-a-dotted-line

8 1/2 years since their last album Nickel Creek surprised their long suffering fans on the 3rd of February 2014 via the wonders of social networking that they were “Getting the band back together”.  Unlike many band reformations of recent times, this one wasn’t with the vague promises of possible new material after a year of touring old material…..a new album was also announced.  The album name would be revealed on the 18th of Feb as ‘A Dotted Line’ and set for release on 1/4/14 (not an elaborate April Fools joke we were assured by the band) UK release is 31/3 a day before.  Thanks to the good people at Nonesuch no later than 2 days after the announcement I had a nice shiny promo delivered.

Now I’m a BIG Nickel Creek fan, and despite missing the band, I have quite contentedly filled the near on 9 year hiatus with plenty of individual offerings from Chris, Sara and Sean.  Some of these albums are great, some I don’t care that much for, but we’ve not exactly been deprived of music from this talented trio have we????

So why has everyone simply not been content for Thile, Watkins and Watkins to walk away clean and clear, satisfying ourselves with Punch Brothers, WPA, Fiction Family, Sara solo etc etc ?  The simple reason is that they just work better together rather than individually.  That is of course my personal opinion, some may think that they’re better having called time, but I think they’d be in the minority.

So what to do with an album you’ve been yearning for? Well after a little fit of glee which involved a rather childish jumping up and down for a few minutes in my kitchen I did what any sane person would do….stuck the CD in and crossed my fingers that this was going to be worth the wait.

Now I’m crap with deciphering lyrics, but to the best of my abilities there appears to be references aplenty in opening song ‘Rest Of My Life’ to the band splitting and subsequently reuniting.
‘But it’s one of those endings, that no one claps cos they’re sure that there’s more’
Reflecting on how poorly the hiatus was received, fans knew that they would be back but as the years went by our resolve was starting to be tested.  The song itself is a glorious comeback, full of all that we love about NC, great harmonies and the masters at work with their respective instruments.

I’m going to refrain from describing every song, as i think it should be left as a nice surprise to the listener.  The 2 songs released as teasers are a good reflection  on the pace and mood of the album.  Mother Mother cover ‘Hayloft’ is sure to raise a few eyebrows on initial listens, but it’s an utter gem.

Overall, there’s not as much of Sean singing lead as I’d like, most vocals duties are deferred to Chris and Sara.  I’d also have expected a more progressive album, it feels for the first time in their series of album releases that they are playing it a bit safe.  But it’s great to have them back….for how long they’ll stay back remains to be seen.

Is ‘A Dotted Line’ a glorious swansong or the shape of things to come with a long lasting reunion that will drop Nickel Creek back into the run of releases along with their respective side projects?  I certainly wouldn’t want to forsake more Punch Brothers releases at the expense of just having Nickel Creek around.  It’s kind of like having to pick a favourite child, you just can’t.

4.5/5

Favourite Track(s): You Don’t Know What’s Going On, Rest Of My Life, Christmas Eve

In summary, it was probably never going to live up to my over inflated expectations after 9 years, but it’s blooming lovely and holds a worthy place in the NC discography.  A nice way to celebrate 25 years of the band being in existence.  Pre Order it HERE.

UK Tour dates are yet to be announced, but you’d have to think it can’t be long before they are.

Track Listing:
1. Rest Of My Life
2. Destination
3. Elsie (inst)
4. Christmas Eve
5. Hayloft (Mother Mother cover)
6. 21st of May
7. Love Of Mine
8. Elephant in the Corn (inst)
9. You Don’t Know What’s Going On
10. Where is Love Now (Sam Phillips cover)

Karnivool - Asymmetry album cover

Karnivool – Asymmetry (Cymatic)

Ok here’s a quick pre-cursor to the review.  I handed this one over to Chris (he does all the RAWK \m/ reviews).  To say he’s a fan of Karnivool would be an understatement….know this (and I think it will be fairly evident on reading the review) this one made his little day :)

Karnivool - Asymmetry album cover

Well today has been the longest day at work in the history of days at work. At 10:40am, my brother sent me a link (incidentally my bro has now reached “living legend” status for this, a serious upgrade from “little brother who I punched” status). Not just any link – a link to stream Karnivool’s new album “Asymmetry” in full.

 

IN FULL. All of it. All 14 glorious tracks.

 

Let us take a moment to fully appreciate what this means. I rarely get the chance to be part of something before it happens to everyone else, so to be part of this is pretty fucking cool. The wait for the new album from these has felt a million times longer then the one in between old and new series of Game of Thrones, which is always annoyingly long. And a million times longer is ages whatever way you stack it. If you’re reading this review, it stands to reason that you’re a Karnivool fan – if you’ve not heard them yet and you’ve stumbled in from out there in internet land, where the fuck have you been?! Go and listen to Sound Awake RIGHT NOW. It will change your life.

 

Ok let’s get one thing out of the way: If you’re expecting and will be satisfied with no less than Sound Awake ver.2, then please leave now. Go away. Also, while you’re at it, find all of those who expected Vheissu to be The Artist in the Ambulance ver.2 and never darken my doorstep again. Accept that bands progress in the time they experience between writing and recording two albums. A progression that will be a fruitful new experience for you, the listener. If you prefer bands that churn out the same, safe bet, time after time, then this is not the band or the reviewer for you. If you aren’t one who fears progressive change and growth in the music you point at your sound holes, please carry on.

 

So the day is here, 11 days before release. I’m listening to it as I write this. It’s sonically very different to Sound Awake, in both the production and songwriting. It has an edge that I think they needed for this, it’s more lively sounding, but in a good way. Karnivool could’ve played safe and stuck with Forrester Savell and his magical way of making things sound like angel orgasms, but instead entrusted Nick DiDia with the job of producing and engineering Asymmetry. He has a healthy pedigree, working with acts such as Pearl Jam, Rage and Mastodon, so you can rest assured this album sounds great, they chose wisely. The songs on the whole sound more exploratory on Asymmetry, there aren’t many other bands that can pull this kind of album off so convincingly.

 

So what’s the verdict? It’s so fucking good. Better than I’d hoped. It’s certainly an album that demands more of your attention than Themata, but Sound Awake was the same. It took a few listens of Sound Awake for the pieces to truly fall into place, but when that happened I think I could just about see the future. I’ve not had an experience with an album like that before or since (until now possibly) and it’s a story I hear from plenty of other Karnivool fans. It’s one hell of an album to follow, although I think they’ve just about cracked it with Asymmetry, just not in the way that I think some people may have expected. This album has so much depth though, it needs successive repeat visits to absorb everything it has to offer. There’s much more delicacy on here than I expected, but that just makes the bigger tracks hit that much harder. We Are is the obvious choice as the first single and is certainly the most familiar sounding. I think my standout track is Sky Machine, but A M WAR, Aeons and The Last Few are mighty close. All the tracks have their own place in the puzzle though, you need to listen to this as one, it has a flow to it that shouldn’t be interrupted.

 

Karnivool are one of those rare bands. In fact everyone I know that “likes” this band, actually LOVES THIS BAND. I’ll never forget hearing Shutterspeed for the first time. I must’ve listened to it maybe 50 or 60 times in a row, I didn’t sleep much that night because I just kept hitting repeat. I chose Karnivool over sleep and I’m glad I did, because here I am – lucky enough to be listening to their new album and letting you know how absolutely incredible it is. If you’ve pre-ordered it, then have patience friends, it will be rewarded on the 19th of July. If you haven’t pre-ordered it yet, then sort your life out, it’s only £7.99 on iTunes.

 

Karnivool are touring this November in the UK. There’s a crowd of us going to 5 of the shows, if I can somehow bring myself to drive to both arse-ends of the country and Sheffield, it may well end up being all 8. I suggest you get tickets now, as once this album is digested by Johhny Public, the remaining tickets will be gone. Plus Tesseract are supporting – double trouble, no brainer, you’d be a bit of a spaz not to go.

 

This gets 11/11, because sometimes 10/10 just doesn’t quite get my point across. Ian, Drew, Mark, John and Steve – take a bow so low that you all headbutt the floor a bit, you are all gods among men. And Steve, you literally threw a drumstick right into my hand at Download, thanks for having such good aim! I knew having freakishly long arms would pay off one day. Also special mention to Mike from Monuments, who I didn’t realise was the owner of the hand below mine in the catching of the stick until I caught it. Sorry dude, you got to hold it at least!

Brother & Bones 'For All We Know' EP Cover Art

EP Review: Brother and Bones – For All We Know

One of my favourite bands release new material for the first time in quite a while.  And what a treat the ‘For All We Know’ EP from Brother & Bones is.  The wait can be excused as they have spent the last 12 months predominantly on the road melting faces and taking names.  Be it Rich on his own supporting Ben Howard on UK & European tours or the full line up playing at as many festivals and venues that they could.  The boys are just about to embark on another mammoth tour of the UK (details below).

I can’t quite recall where it was that I first heard the opener ‘I See Red’.  It was either when B&B supported Feeder at Lusty Glaze or at Leopallooza, but I remember clearly thinking at the time that this could be the track that gets the guys the attention they so richly deserve.  The opening salvo of Si’s bass and Rich’s acoustic might initially befuddle hardcore B&B fans as it’s a bit out of kilter with what we’ve come to expect, but once Rich’s unique vocals kick in you couldn’t mistake this song for anyone else’s.  With some beautiful slide guitar from James and as always powerful percussion from the dynamic duo of Yiannis and Robin beefing the track up.  The track is feisty, bubbling under in the verses before exploding into screaming guitars, bellowed vocals and the overwhelming sense of power in the choruses and the mantra like ending that builds to an unstoppable crescendo.

‘For All We Know’ has been cunningly kept under Brother & Bones’s belt for a good while now.  Anyone who’s seen them play in the past will surely recognise this one.  It starts out subtlety as a ballad with Rich pouring out his soul, showing that he can pull off the slow songs as well as the up and at em ones.   The song peaks and troughs in volume and power throughout the track, at times when you think it’s all going to go off they reign it back in right until the end with an explosion of passion from Rich, backed to the hilt by the rest of the boys singing in unison.

‘Follow Me Down’ is sure to go down as a legendary B&B track once they let it loose on a live audience.  The same goes with ‘Wicked Man’, both songs are brash and full of the power we’ve come to expect from Brother & Bones.

They’re one of the only bands around that managed to capture the essence of their live shows and replicate it once in the studio.  So many bands and solo artists I see who produce stunning live shows have comparatively limp studio versions of their material it’s more often than not a real let down.

The EP as a whole is a stunning addition to the Brother & Bones catalogue, which is already awash with classics.  Buy the EP, go see them live you simply wont regret it.  We however take no responsibility if you actually have your face melted off by the band.  We’ll be catching up with the boys in Newton Abbot and Exeter, and will hopefully re-film the interview we shot at Leopallooza, which was unfortunately unusable due to sound issues.

Rating: 10/10
Best Track: All of them are gems, but for the length of time I waited to hear a studio version I’m going with For All We Know
For Fans Of: Ben Howard, Mumford & Sons

B&B head out on tour this week here are the dates:

Fri 12 Oct 8:00 PM The Stag’s Head, Southampton. *SOLO ACOUSTIC SHOW* FREE
Sat 13 Oct 8:00 PM ‘Wish You Were Here Festival’ @ Various Venues, Cambridge £13.50
Tue 16 Oct 7:30 PM The Cellar, Southampton £6.00 Tickets
Wed 17 Oct 8:00 PM The Hope, Brighton £6.00 Tickets
Thu 18 Oct 7:30 PM White Rabbit, Plymouth £2.00 (Door Sales Only)
Fri 19 Oct 7:00 PM The Arts Centre, Bridgewater £6.00 Tickets
Sat 20 Oct 7:30 PM The Jolly Farmer, Newton Abbot £7adv Tickets
Tue 23 Oct 7:30 PM Fibbers, York £6.00 Tickets
Wed 24 Oct 7:30 PM The Shipping Forecast, Liverpool £6adv Tickets
Thu 25 Oct 8:00 PM Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, Glasgow £5.00 Tickets
Fri 26 Oct 7:00 PM The Deaf Institute, Manchester £7.00 Tickets
Sun 28 Oct 7:00 PM Head Of Steam, Newcastle upon Tyne £5.00 Tickets
Tue 30 Oct 7:30 PM The Flapper, Birmingham £5.00 Tickets
Wed 31 Oct 7:00 PM Moon Club, Cardiff £6.00 Tickets
Thu 1 Nov 7:00 PM Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London £6.50 Tickets
Fri 2 Nov 7:30 PM The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes £5 Tickets
Tue 6 Nov 9:00 PM Mama Stone’s, Exeter £4.00 Tickets
Wed 7 Nov 7:30 PM Nation Of Shopkeepers, Leeds FREE
Thu 8 Nov 7:30 PM Soundhouse Leicester, Leicester £5.00 Tickets
Fri 9 Nov 7:30 PM Boileroom, Guildford £5.00 Tickets
Sat 10 Nov 7:30 PM Moles, Bath £5.00 Tickets

Ethan Ash - Playing By Numbers EP artwork

EP Review: Ethan Ash – Playing By Numbers

In the PR blurb that comes with releases it mentions that Ethan Ash has played with notable musicians like Seth Lakeman and Ed Sheeran over the past couple of years.  Quietly going about his business, organically growing his fan-base….ticking all the right boxes.  I’ve not had the pleasure yet of seeing him live, but based on the performance in his new EP ‘Playing By Numbers’ which is due out on the 1st of October, that might have to be rectified sooner rather than later.

Noting down a few influences that jump out while listening, I came up with the following rather impressive list Jason Mraz, Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen, Maroon 5 to name but a few.  I think the overall feel to his work is more in the early Mraz work rather than the bloated boring shite he’s putting out now.

Ash’s ability to pen a chorus will surely garner far more fans over the course of time than he currently holds.  The tracks all have a nice variation, but Ash has gone for an upbeat indie pop sound that tickles your earholes in the most pleasant of ways.  His powerful, versatile voice is instantly likeable, as mentioned before it will remind you of many great singers that have gone before, without sounding like a carbon copy of any of them.

Six track on offer as opposed to the usual 4 that is standard nowadays in an EP, my pick it closing track ‘I Like’ which is pure quality.

Rating: 9/10
Best Track: I Like
For Fans Of: Jason Mraz (Pre L.O.V.E.), Maroon 5, Ben Howard

Check Ethan out at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ethanashmusic

Links for the EP and where to buy it will be posted in due course for now here’s a teaser of what’s on offer:

Jack Wallen What Money Can't Buy artwork

EP Review: Jack Wallen – What Money Can’t Buy

Chances are you might have happened upon Jack at one of his many gigs across the county recently.  I was supposed to cover the recording of his debut EP ‘What Money Can’t Buy’ when Jack laid down the tracks during a live performance at The Melting Pot Cafe in Redruth, but to my utter dismay (personified when I heard the EP, I was ill and not of a gig going capacity at the time.  It is a collaborative effort in every sense of the word.  Playing with a band for the first time Jack was joined by Harry Harding on Drums (Harry also drums in Kola, The People’s String Foundation and for Ruarri Joseph) and Chris Jones on Bass (PSF & Ruarri).  The EP was recorded with the help of the seemingly ever-present Ryan Jones (Kola) and was supported on the night by Ryan and Annie (Kola), Kezia and Charlie Wingfield who all pitched in with a set each.

The idea for recording it live is probably best in Jack’s words:

“The concept is that I was invited to attend the BBC Introducing Musicians’ Masterclass at Abbey Road and Maida Vale studios in January, and left with the motivation to release an e.p, but do it in an interesting way, and really enjoy it, but do it efficiently. That’s why I thought that I could do it live, and invite people to photograph, film and write about it, all local and active in the area. This way, I can efficiently benefit by creating an e.p, photos and videos in one night, whilst making it a product by all contributors to the local scene, giving them material to take away for themselves.  The money from ticket sales will go solely to the recording and manufacture of the e.p, like a mini D.I.Y PledgeMusic sort of thing.”

So a few months after the recording, Jack’s EP dropped through the letterbox and ever since it’s been given a fair rotation in the Clean Slate stereo.  I’ve also been lucky enough between receiving the EP and writing up the review to have seen Jack play twice and get a real feel for the songs.  As a performer, Jack really involves the audience with stories about his songs and humourous banter.

Committed to disk, it is a testament to the skills of Mr Jones that until the end of each track when the audience sparks up, you wouldn’t think it was a live recording.  What is evident is the mastery of his instrument.  Jack has a really natural style and switches easily from simple the strummed melodies of tracks like ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Not a Stones cover) to innovative finger-picking in the mesmerising  ‘To The Shore’ where Jack utilises 2 capos.  Jack’s voice leans heavily on his slightly dulled Essex accent (Jack moved to Cornwall when he was 10) in the same kind of way that contemporaries like Kate Nash uses her accent.  This adds a unique dimension to his voice that certainly in Cornwall will help set him apart from a lot of his fellow acoustic artists.

All songs have a really mellow groove to them, toes will be tapping, heads-a-bobbing throughout this early taste of what’s to come from one of Cornwall’s most promising musicians.  You can catch Jack at Boardmasters on the Saturday playing The View stage.

You can preview the EP and buy it (for the paltry sum of £4.00) on Jack’s Bandcamp page here: http://jackwallen.bandcamp.com/

All of Jack’s social media sites are listed below:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jackwallenmusic
T
witter - https://twitter.com/#!/jackwallenmusic
W
ebsite - http://www.jackwallenmusic.com/

Rating – 9/10
Best Track – To The Shore
For Fans Of: The Local Music Scene, Kate Nash, Ed Sheeran, Gareth Lee, Matthew P, Luke Ritchie, Ben Howard etc etc

Tracklist: 

1. Pleasantries & Subtleties
2. Sympathy for the Devil
3. To The Shore
4. What Money Can’t Buy
5. A Bigger Man