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Sinéad O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?

At age 45, Sinead O’Connor still has an amazing voice. There aren’t a lot of singers who can put that much emotion, drama and sharp angles into their tone but she’s definitely one of them. And it’s that voice that makes an album that would otherwise be described as okay, another remarkable feat.

Opener “4th And Vine” is a song that helps you slide in before “Reason With Me” comes in and blossoms into a great ballad. Next up is “Old Lady”, a song that’s as upbeat as upbeat can be. And she just keeps on going after that. Musically the songs aren’t anything you haven’t heard before but O’Connor’s voice really does help lift things to the next level. Still not convinced? Check out “Queen Of Denmark” where she lets go off all her frustrations in one single song.
Score: 7 out of 10

Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend

Porcelain Raft is a one-man band consisting of an Italian called Mauro Remiddi. “Strange Weekend” is his first full-length and it turns out to be a cocktail of shoegaze, dreampop and ambient that should work well in the background on a summer night. There’s a litte bit of older Air (“Put Me To Sleep”) alongside M83.

You may have already heard first single “Unless You Speak From The Heart”… don’t base your opinion just on that one song. It’s catchy before anything else and doesn’t exactly fit in between the other more ethereal songs on “Strange Weekend”.
Score: 6 out of 10

Breton – Other People’s Problems

Breton is a London-based art collective that started out making music by producing live soundtracks to their movies. Being children of the modern age, these guys’ influences are all over the place, something that becomes obvious right from the start in opener “Pacemaker”. With a hiphop beat dropped over a nice classical violin arrangement and distorted vocals. Think of Foals or Bloc Party collaborating with some big-time electronic music producers. They repeat the same formula on the other songs on “Other People’s Problems”… juggling with rhythms, mashing up different genres and a multitude of references.

This leads to exciting results such as in the abovementioned “Pacemaker”, “Edward The Confessor” or “Wood And Plastic” with its mathy rock vibe, string arrangements and Afro guitar. Or have a listen to album closer “The Commission” which comes awfully close to Burial’s world. Cuts like “Interference” and “Oxides” however stop this from being a solid album all around. I think they’re keeping that one for the next round… it’s definitely there though!
Score: 7 out of 10

Lambchop – Mr. M

Music has always been a great way to express feelings and Kurt Wagner has always been a man with a lot to express. He might not have experienced quite as much misery as Eels’ E (there are limits) but he’s cutting a close second. So when his friend Vic Chesnutt committed suicide, Wagner started writing to get through it and ended up with a new album called “Mr M”. It lets us hear more of Lambchop’s particular mix of country and soul that will get you all choked up.

In spite of the abundance of strings that are present on this album, things never get bombastic. Instead “Mr M” is a restrained and intimate album with songs that slowly float up to the skies. Just listen to “2n2”, “Gone Tomorrow” or “Betty’s Overture” and try to keep things dry.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Cheap Time – Wallpaper Music

The Nashville rockers that make up Cheap Time are back for another round. “Wallpaper Music” is full of the kind of glammed up garage-y, punky powerpop that’s just plain fun to listen to. It sounds like it was recorded in a tin can and vocalist Jeffrey Novak sounds as bored as ever while still suffering from the same cold, but the riffs in songs like opener “More Cigarettes” and “Hall Of Mirrors” are good and that retarded flute in “Take It If You Want It” makes the song even better… so who cares?

I could’ve done without the psychedelic sidesteps that are “Underneath The Fruit Flies” and “Dream It Up”, but if Cheap Time lays off the shrooms, they play some pretty decent tunes.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Conan – Monnos

Conan has been around since 2006, have previously released an album and a split and only occasionally play shows. Or so I’ve read. Because I had never heard of these barbarians before. And listening to “Monnos”, I think I’d still remember because holy fuck, these guys are überheavy!!!

Opener “Hawk As Weapon” wastes no time in unleashing its crushing potential and opens with a riff so heavy you actually feel your bowels move in sync. I don’t know how they get it done but I imagine the strings on the guitar and bass are winded all the way down. Kudos on the production job as well, which only adds more punch. Normally doom is kinda monotonous (or as I like to call it… boring) but Conan introduces enough tempo changes and even some hooks to keep things interesting throughout. And rather than wearing out their welcome, these guys get the job done in 40 minutes before they return to slaying all of Crom’s enemies.
Score: 7 out of 10

Lower Dens – Nootropics

Jana Hunter is a busy woman. When she isn’t hanging out with freakfolker Devendra Banhart or releasing music under her own name, she’s working with the likes of Indian Jewelry, Phosphorescent and CocoRosie. And then she added Lower Dens to the list in 2009. Their debut “Twin Hand Movement” got a good response, they got signed to Domino and are now back with an ambitious sophomoric release called “Nootropics”.

Expect to hear a bunch of dreampop/shoegaze songs in which tension is continually being built without ever erupting. Fans of Mazzy Star or Beach House should be able to appreciate “Nootropics” well enough because Lower Dens do a good job. The problem is however that I happen to like eruptions. And all the fancy effects, krautrock synths and androgynous vocals in the world can’t make this batch of tunes more interesting.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

Polinski – Labyrinths

Over the years 65daysofstatic have evolved from math rockers to a bunch of dudes who like to mess around with electronics. One of them (16daysand6hoursofstatic?) is Paul Wolinski who has taken things even further on his solo outing. Under the moniker Polinksi he released a very fine album called “Labyrinths”, an all-electronic sidestep. I’m not the biggest fan of electronic music but this sounds pretty damn good. Beats burst open from out of nowhere only to then disappear and sneak back up on you, the synths sound trance-y and there’s plenty of 80s video games nostalgia thrown in as well.

It’s electronic music but it rocks… that pretty much sums it up. Don’t expect anything else than tunes that demand to be played loud with the windows rolled down.
Score: 8 out of 10

M+A – Things.Yes

M+A is an Italian duo consisting of two young dudes called Michele Ducci and Alessandro Degli Angioli who have delivered their first album with “Things.Yes”. It’s full of warm and poppy melodies coupled to nervous beats and bears influeces from everyone from Aphex Twin and Panda Bear to Sigur Rós.

Check out “Liko Lene Lisa” or the potential hit “Bam” if you want to get a feel of this act’s sound. “Things.Yes” is the kind of album that needs to sink in because there’s so much going on but give it a couple of spins. Chances are you won’t be disappointed!
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Ufomammut – Oro : Opus Primum

Ufomammut… what’s up with that name? Anyway, this Italian outfit seems to be way the fuck out there… they don’t shy away from opening their new album with a 14 minute long track that just drones on for what seems like way longer than 14 minutes. And after that it’s even more droning. I imagine a lot of people will go nuts over this but I’m not one of them. I like my tunes short, to the point and fast. Basically everything that Ufomammut is not.
Score: 5 out of 10

Flats – Better Living

It’s hardcore, Jim, but not as we know it! London’s Flats are a pissed off bunch who see no qualm in coming across as a completely obnoxious bunch of dudes armed with loud guitars, pounding drums and a larynx-shredding vocalist.

Opener “Foxtrot” is a sludgy beast that’s as bleak and sinister as bleak and sinister can get. Next up is the fast-paced “Tango” which will leave many ballroom dancers shaking their head in disbelief and from there they keep on pounding out white noise with indistinguishable vocals, even covering Hellhammer’s “Crucifixion” along the way. It’s only towards the end that they return to the doomy sludge of the opener with “Mambo” before collapsing on the floor. Raw, intense and invigorating!
Score: 8 out of 10

Maps & Atlases – And Be Grateful

Anyone who has heard Maps & Atlases’ debut “Perks Patchwork” from two years ago, knows that these guys can write a decent tune. That album was filled with mathy indierock that was both intelligent and accessible.

On “And Be Grateful” however they sound pretty damn annoying with the vocals at the end of opener “Old & Gray” as a first standout. Whiny as fuck is a good way to put it. “Fever” is up next and is a pretty good song if you like John Mayer. It is followed by Vampire Weekend at their cheesiest in “Winter”. After that they just keep on going with their Paul Simon-like African rhythms and intricate guitar patterns but the material has the emotional depth of a 12-year-old’s diary entries and doesn’t convince for a single second. It does succeed in annoying the shit out of me though!
Score: 4 out of 10

Red – Until We Have Faces

Red is a Christian band but let’s not hold that against them. “Until We Have Faces” is already the band’s third album and is filled with the type of songs that will get all the churchgoers headbanging in no time. Hmmm, just wondering how they feel about fans showing them the horns at one of their shows…

Musically you can lump them in with the Sevendusts and Drowning Pools of the world, bands that still enjoy a decent following in the States but that have been largely forgotten in Europe for good reason. If you’re a nostalgic and find yourself missing the nu metal sounds of the late nineties and early 00’s, you might enjoy these guys. Admitted, vocalist Michael Barnes has a great voice and they have a wall of sound that could very well drown out the voice of god himself, but I’m not sure how many people here are still waiting for Staind 2.0.
Score: 6 out of 10

Kill Wealthy Dowager – That’s Bad Ass!

According to their bio, Kill Wealthy Dowager distilled a sound of their own from the catchy guitar trickery of Minus the Bear, the densely layered vocal harmonies of Queen, the head-nodding post hardcore of Quicksand and or the blazing guitar solos of Megadeth. Kinda hard to pin a label on them, right?

This band around former Thursday guitarist Bill Henderson may have a lot of things going on in one song, but never miss the chance to rock out in a great way and not lose themselves in endless noodling. Call it progressive indie rock if you will. Better yet, listen to songs like opener “If You Want To Know”, the rowdy “Cooler Friends Than Us” and the kickass “The World Has Moved On” and make up your own mind.

At just over 30 minutes “That’s Bad Ass!” doesn’t overstay its welcome and succeed in pulling of an album that lingers between experimental post-hardcore and rocking out with their cocks out.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Great Book Of John – S/T

Alabama native Taylor Shaw is the man behind The Great Book Of John and on his band’s new self-titled album they come off sounding as Radiohead meets Travis by way of Whiskeytown. This leads to some pretty solid songs such as the two-punch opening combo of “Robin Hood” and “Brown Frown”. They unfortunately lose a little traction with “Wise Blood” and “Ashes Over Manhattan”, two downers that work as good as any pill, but quickly redeem themselves with the slightly menacing “Black Heart” and then end on two more high notes with “On And On” and “Simple Things”. Well-executed Americana that won’t look bad in anybody’s collection! Hideous artwork though…
Score: 7 out of 10

S.C.U.M. – Again Into Eyes

S.C.U.M. got their name from Valerie Solanas’ manifesto (crazy bitch who shot Andy Warhol), they’ve already played at the hippest of hip festivals (All Tomorrow’s Parties) and they seem to spend an awful lot of time thinking about their haircuts. Yes, these guys are every hipster’s dream.

“Again Into Eyes” drowns in a sea of keyboards and wavering guitars and is reminiscent of Joy Division, Editors and Arcade Fire. Unfortunately they are nowhere as good as any of those bands and would rather check their hair once again in the mirror rather than making sure their songs don’t overdose on drama. Total snoozefest!
Score: 4 out of 10

Southerly – Youth

Southerly is basically a guy called Krist Krueger who wrote all of the songs and played all of the instruments. He does get a little help from Eli Jemison (keyboards) and Sarah Saturday (backing vocals), but in the end Southerly is very much a one-man project.

 “Youth” is a collection of twelve songs that are dreamy, melancholic and poppy in an indie kinda way. This is a very good thing if you’re called Death Cab For Cutie, not so much if you’re Southerly. The songs always start out decent enough but ultimately don’t go anywhere. They seem content being stuck in repetition and Krueger’s vocals are too mediocre and monotone to make much of an impression. Plus it’s next to impossible to make any sort of distinction between the separate songs… this one has ‘missed opportunity’ written all over it.
Score: 5 out of 10

Rise And Fall – Faith

Years ago the only musical export from Belgium that got any attention abroad consisted either of crappy Eurodance acts or the hugely overrated Deus. Things have changed though and these days good bands seem to be popping up all over the place. Or in the case of Rise And Fall I imagine it was more like clawing their way up from the fires of hell rather than greeting the world with a wave and a smile.

On their latest album “Faith” these guys still sound pissed off as fuck and come at you with a sledgehammer disguised as pounding drums, rumbling bass lines and riffs that are so nasty they’d never get a ride if they were standing on the side of the road with their thumbs up in the air. Just listen to “The Gallows Await” as it comes to its scorching climax or experience a self-induced panic attack alongside a sever case of claustrophobia while “A Hammer And Nails” or “Deceiver” are blasting out the speakers.

It’s not just 28 minutes of shredding and blasting though. Rise And Fall is equally adept at creating a bleak atmosphere… check the creepy melody in “Things Are Different Now”. And then there’s the closer “Faith/Fate”, six minutes of sludgy noise where they grab you and drag you kicking and screaming back to where they came from.

“Faith” is Rise And Fall’s best album to date and it shows they’ve definitely earned their place on the Deathwish roster alongside a whole lot of other killer hardcore bands.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Officer Down – Thrown To The Water

Officer Down is a UK-based band that apparently spent a fair amount of time listening to some of the Crack Rock Steady bands. “Thrown To The Water” is their second album and on it they play a whole bunch of really fast, fairly melodic and punk as fuck songs.

Taking cues from crusty bands such as The Exploited, you’re obviously not going to get any points for originality. But these guys do a pretty good job nonetheless making “Throw To The Water” a fun album for those of you who are into fast and ferocious punkrock. Those three words pretty much sum it all up… fun, fast and ferocious.
Score: 6 out of 10

Manu Armata – No Victory Without Strife

The Dutch dudes that make up Manu Armata not only seem to have paid attention in Latin class, they also seem slightly pissed off. Expect six songs and one intro of hard-hitting, in your face hardcore that is a true chugfest. No surprises here but fans of Terror, 50 Lions and Hoods should be able to get their mosh on just fine!
Score: 6 out of 10

Kapitan Korsakov – Stuff & Such

Kapitan Korsakov first made me think I was gonna hear some Beirut-influenced Balkan tunes but it turned out that these Belgian dudes had a penchant for noisy 90s rock... which I can dig a whole lot more!

On album number two they take their sound a little further and occasionally trade in the distortion pedal for something a bit more mellow or experimental. Or did you expect to hear a mandolin in”Piss Where You Please”? I didn’t. And then there’s “In The Shade Of The Sun” towards the end of the album, a slow burning gem where if you listen close enough you can actually hear vocalist Pieter-Paul Devos’ heart break.

But don’t worry… there’s still plenty of noise to go around. Like that stoner groove in “Don’t Believe The Hope” or the soft/loud dynamics of single “Cancer”. I’m not saying Kapitan Korsakov will singlehandedly start a grunge revival but they are definitely opening up some possibilities while not losing sight of updating the sound and doing their own thing. Shit’s just good.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
KKK Records

A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen/Silent Front split

On their first UK tour A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen played a couple of shows with the post-punks that make up Silent Front. They got on well and decided to do a split together… whoopty doo!

ACKIAHK is Paul Lamont (Hitch), Craig Ward (dEUS, The Love Substitute and about a million other bands) and Bootsie Butsenzeller (DAAU, Dóttir Slonza) and they get to do one song here that they stretched out for what feels like forever. Sure, these guys can play and they stretch the boundaries of conventional genres. But that’s about as nice as I can wax about them because honestly, this is the kind of self-indulgent wanking that sounds like the musical equivalent of the world’s most boring blowjob scene ever in Vincent Gallo’s “Brown Bunny”.

Silent Front is up next with two songs (“Tactic A” and “Plunder”) and luckily make life a little more interesting but equally bleak. It’s like listening to Fugazi with a little Melvins thrown in for good measure… loud, awkward and unrelenting are words that come to mind. Maybe I should check out their previously released full-length “Dead Lake” which does not have A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen to fuck things up for them.
Score: 5 out of 10


When Keith Morris started a new band in 2009 along with Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven Shane McDonalds (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes), it was like getting caught in a time machine that blew you all the way back to when Morris helped shape California’s punkrock scene with Circle Jerks.

They’ve already released four EP’s and are now dropping their first full-length. Well, a full-length by their standards… by the time your average doom band have just finished their intro and are barely halfway through the first song, these punkrockers already went through sixteen songs in as many minutes and are in the car on the way home.

OFF! only knows one speed and that is fast as fuck. No frills, no time to waste (after all Keith Morris is already 56). Racing by fast enough to not have to worry about getting caught, they do take the time to show Black Flag’s Greg Ginn a middle finger (“I Got News For You”) and while they’re at it the rest of the world gets to see it as well (all of the other songs). And while there’s nothing new to be found on here if you’ve already heard Black Flag or Circle Jerks, it’s a bit like that kick in the ass you did not see coming but that gets you off the couch. How someone can kick you in the ass while you’re sitting on the couch is something for another time.
Score: 8 out of 10

The Hangmen – East Of Western

When The Hangmen first started out 25+ years ago, they were lumped in with the LA hair metal scene and marketed as such by Capitol Records when they released the band’s self-titled full-length. The Hangmen however like their punky, twangy rock n roll more than their major label deal and subsequently got dropped. Seeing as history has a tendency to repeat itself, the same happened with Geffen. After that many bands would’ve called it a day but not so with vocalist/guitarist Bryan Small who continued to crank out tunes up to today.

Joined by ex-Supersuckers guitarist Ron Heathman, The Hangmen are now dropping album number six, “East Of Western”. Expect to hear both grimy rockers and heartfelt ballads with Small’s trademark sneer over it while he’s talking about love and crime. Opener “Homesick Blues” immediately sets the place on fire with cuts like “Graverobbers” and “Railroad Man” finishing the job. The country influence is the strongest in song like “Betrayed” and the slowly smouldering “Haunted”. Oh, and that cover of Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked” is a nice touch as well. 25 Years into it these guys have done everything but cracked!
Score: 7 out of 10

BRAD – United We Stand

Even though “Best Friends?” came out in 2010, it was actually recorded back in 2003. That makes “United We Stand” BRAD’s first new album in nine years. Obviously the band members all have other obligations… not in the least Stone Gossard with Pearl Jam. But apparently the band had such a good time in the studio this time around, they vowed to get together and record something once a year. Which – listening to “United We Stand” – is not the worst idea ever.

The songs on here range from grungy to poppy and even a little rootsy at times. The only constants are Gossard’s solid guitar work and Shawn Smith’s vulnerable vocals. Other than that, pretty much everything goes. First single “A Reason To Be In My Skin” is not bad but not the best song on the album. The mellow “Bound In Time” and the acoustic “Needle And Thread” both trickle along nicely while tracks such as “Last Bastion” and “Tea Bag” are decent enough rockers. Yet there’s almost always this something that prohibits the songs from becoming memorable. They can do it though… just listen to “Make The Pain Go Away” and try not to be moved. Cool album but not quite a stand-out.
Score: 7 out of 10