Albums/EPs

ALBUM: Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You

Release Date: February 9th, 2009
Label: Parlophone Records
Website: www.lilyallenmusic.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lilymusic

Rating:

It’s been a long wait since Lily Allen‘s debut full-length ‘Alright, Still’ infected the airwaves across the world and forced us to have singles like ‘Smile’ and ‘LDN’ in our heads for hours on end. Since then a few things have happened in Lily‘s life, not all necessarily positive, which in turn has helped fuel and provide for album number two; ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’.

In many senses, Lily takes influences from all different directions in this album much like her debut, including electro-pop, ska, indie, etc. which makes for what could arguably be considered an exciting take on making elements of the mainstream music industry her own. Electro-pop seems to be a very prominent feature suspect on the album, primarily in the increasingly present everyday drug-use number ‘Everyone’s At It’, and current chart-bothering hit ‘The Fear’. As with usual procedure and expectations, it wouldn’t be a Lily Allen record if there weren’t songs slating ex-boyfriends, with ‘Not Fair’ carrying along witty lyrics about a poor sex life with an ex, with the lyrics “You’re supposed to care that you never made me scream”, and “I lie here in the wet patch, in the middle of the bed / I’m feeling pretty damn hard done by, I spent ages giving head” sealing it with the classic Lily Allen style.

‘Back To The Start’ brings along a nightclub vibe and potential with it. The electronic music and fast and quick lyrical deliverance together mean that this could very well be seen in clubs across the UK and other countries in a very short time. The track ‘Never Gonna Happen’ is a definite stand-out one, with a sound of something you wouldn’t really find in the mainstream today, but yet is moulded and somehow transformed into what could only be quirky and catchy pop music.

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ may be mainly electro driven, but still holds lots of fresh and exciting songs and ideas that could very well invite many new fans to her catalogue. It’s an evolvement from ‘Alright, Still’, and an album that keeps Lily in a league and classification of her own.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Lights – The Listening

Release Date: May 17th, 2010
Label: Universal
Website: www.iamlights.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lights

Rating:

Canadian singer Lights is a big deal in her homeland, the pint-sized musician – who legally changed her name from Valerie to Lights last year – has won numerous awards for her quirky sound. This side of the Atlantic however the singer is relatively unknown, but with the release of her debut album ‘The Listening’ finally coming to our shores months after Canada and the US, this is likely to change.

Lights‘ vocals are so distinct and memorable on this record that tracks off this album wouldn’t go amiss in the UK charts. The synthpop singer has an extremely high vocal range, which in places leaves you awestruck. Opening tune ‘Saviour’ and the album’s title track are both great examples of this. The songs are full of electro-pop goodness and perfectly placed vocals, and both of these tracks would go down really well with adolescents everywhere.

The 23-year-old appears to have a knack for songwriting too, songs such as ‘Face Up’ and ‘Ice’ are full of witty lyrics. In the latter, Lights uses a metaphor to describe her inability to face up to awkward situations, “My mouth is frozen so I can’t even speak / What a disappointment I had it perfectly / What I was going to bring up suddenly / Stood like a stone as you stood quietly / You’re making it hard for me, all I can do is freeze”.

The juxtaposition of heavy and in places gloomy lyrics with fast-paced and upbeat music seems to be the perfect combination. Upon listening to the record it becomes easy to see why Lights has won so many awards. The 13 tracks make for light listening and will most likely have you dancing around your room with a hairbrush at the ready to sing-a-long to the almighty choruses… oh wait, that might just be me. In all seriousness though, this is a pretty solid record, and Lights will undoubtedly make a name for herself in the UK with ‘The Listening’. The only downfall for me on this album is that sometimes the vocals are a little too whiney and repetitive for my liking, making one straight listen in its entirety a challenge.

But, if you love cheesy 90’s pop or anything that artists such as Owl City or 3OH!3 have released then this record is for you. This feel-good album might not top the charts, but will definitely get Lights recognition for her work.

Written by Kate Rees

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ALBUM: Ligeia – Bad News

Release Date: August 5th, 2008
Label: Ferret Music
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/ligeia

Rating:

Ligeia are considered by some to be a metalcore band, but from today’s modern classification of the genre they wouldn’t tick all the boxes to be placed there. Either way, genres aside, their latest effort ‘Bad News’ should bring them everything but what it says on the tin.

The band’s lyrical department seems to like to dwell in that of the ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’ depicted lifestyle, with lines in various tracks like “I’ve got no money / I’ve got no pills, honey”, “I’ve been drinking and I’ve been thinking / about what you said to me”, and “Dressed to kill / Her bed is filled with dollar bills”, but not always depicting it as the care-free and glamorous way to live that it’s made out to be.

For a modern ‘mathcore’ band, Ligeia are rather melodic and catchy with their vocal performance, delivering catchy choruses across the board, and as a result making songs like ‘Bad News’, ‘Johnny Cash’, and ‘Bombshell’ ones to stay stuck in your mind hours after listening to them. The musicianship is one of not too much complexity and experimentation, but also one that makes things easy and fun to follow. ‘Heroin Diaries’ brings an acoustic piece to the table, which pretty much blows the ‘metalcore’ label out of the water as a general rule, and despite their usual style it suits them incredibly well, and is more than capable than tugging the heart strings of many.

Ligeia bring the hard rock lifestyle to the table, and glamorise it as much as they trash its name and what it stands for. If you’ve not heard anything by them before now, then ‘Bad News’ is a good set of songs to start off with. There’s bound to be at least one track on there you enjoy for one reason or another.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: A Life Once Lost – Iron Gag

Release Date: September 18th, 2007
Label: Ferret Music
Website: www.alifeoncelost.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/alifeoncelost

Rating:

Hardcore is a genre often tapped into by fans of the metal genre, or who at one point were fans of at least one of the metal sub-genres. However, this mustn’t be mistaken as metal itself, as the genre is different in its own right. A Life Once Lost are one of these bands which you can certify under said genre, and ‘Iron Gag’ is definitely one that gives the genre a good name.

Throughout the course of the album you’re attacked over and over again with anger and aggression, something ‘Iron Gag’ is packed with. ‘Firewater Joyride’ and ‘Others Die’ are just a couple to pick out which shows clear evidence of this, with harsh vocals and chugging riffs almost everywhere. Musician skill isn’t a miss with this band either; diverse and technical riffs, powerful drum beats, and cynical rage-fuelled vocal work are everything but a miss in this package.

The track ‘The Wanderer’ is definitely one of the better songs offered on ‘Iron Gag’, with a soulful guitar introduction and interludes throughout, angry and meaningful lyrics – “I figure that you only wanted to make me feel this way / So that you can feel better about yourself.” – which everyone can relate to at one point or another. Let’s not forget the guitar solo either, which just boosts and adds to the excitement.

However, ‘Iron Gag’ isn’t without its downsides, as with most music releases. It sometimes feels like most of the album sounds like everything else on the album, and doesn’t quite contain as much diversity as it could or should do. The songs are angry, yet repetitive, and where the album is exciting is at the same time boring and nothing you didn’t hear 2 minutes previously.

If hardcore is your bag then stick this on your to buy list, with aggression being the key theme in everything this band portrays in this offering. If you like the one song and have patience this could build onto your top favourites.

Written by Zach Redrup

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SINGLE: Leon Jean-Marie – Scratch

Release Date: March 12th, 2007
Label: Grand Scheme Recordings
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/leonjeanmarie

Rating:

Leon Jean-Marie is an East Londoner, who in his debut single ‘Scratch’ mixes sounds from the likes of Beck, and Bill Withers. His beats? Funky. His lyrics? Catchy. His music? Bloody great. A fusion of R’n’B, pop, and funk is what makes ‘Scratch’ what it is. Sure, the single isn’t one that’s going to make it into the Top 10 Charts, but it’ll stick in your mind for a while.

Keep your eyes and ears open for him in the next few months; with a sound such as his you’ll be hearing him on the radio very soon.

Written by Zach Redrup

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SINGLE: Last Words – Merciless

Release Date: July 7th, 2008
Label: Unsigned
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lastwordsmusic

Rating:

Kicking right into smashing metal, Last Words most recent release ‘Merciless’ since their debut EP delivers the same carnage and metal that they’ve been doing in the past, and stepping things up a little bit since then too.

With moments that sound like some of the older material by Avenged Sevenfold, ‘Merciless’ is another piece of material from the Cheshire 5-piece that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Unlike a lot of metal bands starting up nowadays, Last Words include some progression and varying sections in their music, with it being dense in brutal force with moments to take a breather, such as the section where “As the rain fell down my face” from lead vocalist Scott Rowland.

There’s promise from this release that the band aren’t going to hold back or change what they do to be accepted by more mainstream audiences while creating music that doesn’t sound the same every second along the way. That is how metal should be.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: Last Words – Step Outside Yourself

Release Date: October 25th, 2007
Label: Unsigned
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lastwordsmusic

Rating:

Metal has had its ups and downs over the years, and it’s also had its reinventions too. Last Words from Chester/Crewe are not one to have reinvented it, or hybridised with any other genre, but they’ve definitely given it a name to be proud of with their EP ‘Step Outside Yourself’. Not only is it sheer anger on a disc, but approximately 15 minutes of it isn’t a deal to complain about.

Opener ‘Your Missing Artery’ welcomes us with harsh vocals slowly fading into the music, swelling with volume like a haemorrhage about to explode. When it does explode we’re treated to, for what you usually get from unsigned local bands, a polished metal blast of guitar lines and violent vocal attacks that you’re looking for with any metal band.

When approaching track number two, ‘Portraits’, we get a bit more of a variety in the way the song is constructed and delivered to us. Moments where there’s a few, or just one instrument played at one time leave us standing on our toes, and the musicianship is splendid. The breakdown moment with the lyrics “Guns at the ready / Stand to attention” is one of the best you’re going to find on ‘Step Outside Yourself’.

A different introduction than the other two, ‘As Angels Fall From Grace’ brings the listener in with a melodic combination of instruments playing a soulful and arguably moving section. It’s not long after the half a minute moment where we’re brought into the onslaught we’ve had throughout the previous material. The climatic ending is nothing but enjoyable, and if anything is the thing to get you listening many times again.

Last Words rarely let down throughout ‘Step Outside Yourself’ at all. Vocalist Scott has a great approach to the vocals of this genre, guitarists Bowe and Mark compliment one another excellently, and bassist Tom and drummer Max bring that driving force that without would make them sound as brutal as a cuddly bear. Next step; get signed and get onto the major metal scene.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: The Last Alive – This Is Your Escape Route

Release Date: June 30th, 2009
Label: Unsigned
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/thelastaliveuk

Rating:

Rising like a phoenix from fallen ashes, Cheshire 5-piece The Last Alive‘s debut ‘This Is Your Escape Route’ may have a literal meaning behind the title name – escaping from past projects and chuggering onto new and better plains.

Opener ‘Asymphony’ brings you into their realm of indie/alt. rock like fusion, and though clearly doesn’t on its own stand as a proper track, the lead onto following track ‘Look Past The Bright Lights’ makes it a fitting and natural transition into what’s to follow. This is when their more ambient and post-hardcore inputs come into play; showcasing frontman Rob Scrannage‘s both melodic vocals alongside his more belted bittersweet screams and yells.

Arguably the best track on the release, the title-track, deals out everything this band has in their arsenal at great potential. Rob Scrannage‘s and back-up vocalist Stuart William‘s voices compliment one another like garlic butter and bread – except it doesn’t leave any awful after-stench. The eerie piano intro slowly draws you into an ongoing barrage of drums from George Blything and walls of distorted guitar chords, galloping onto a fiddly guitar solo which soon drops you into the depths of the song’s bridge. Rob‘s vocals change much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, swiftly switching from the soft “I still lie awake at night / We’re not your saviours / Wearing the same suit and tie” before slamming a razor-sharp scream of “Something grabbed the air!” square in your face.

A breather is offered on a plate with ‘Shallow Breathing’, before throwing you in the shark tank one last time in closer ‘Cocaine White’. The guitar work on this effort is more at the forefront than anything else, dual-axe team Stuart Williams and Stephen Roberts work together much like Tony Blair and George Bush once did. What’s more, the repeated line “We’ve all been reduced to syringes” may make you cringe at the though of it’s meaning, but it’s more than guilty of getting stuck in your head.

The Last Alive may be known by very few across the world, heck even across the nation, but this 5-track debut most certainly shows an act planting seeds that could soon grow into something so much more. This is proof talent can be found in the most unlikely places.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster

Release Date: November 18th, 2009
Label: Interscope
Website: www.ladygaga.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/ladygaga

Rating:

Little over a year ago, the name Lady Gaga wouldn’t have rung a bell with most. You’d most likely mention how it made you think of Queen‘s ‘Radio Gaga’ or that it sounded like the name of a drag queen. Isn’t it amazing how things change? Nowadays the New York songstress, who’s as infamous for her outrageous outfits as she is her songs, is a strong household name worldwide.

Her debut effort ‘The Fame’ has sold more than 10 million copies in the UK alone, and boasts hit singles such as ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Just Dance’. So when it was announced that the Lady would re-release her album with a bonus disc featuring eight new tracks everybody went gaga, for lack of a better word. Aptly titled ‘The Fame Monster’, the record follows on from her debut and continues to tell the story about Gaga‘s growing obsession with fame and fortune.

Opening track and first single ‘Bad Romance’ is lyrically darker than previous material – a song about her relationship with the music industry whom she refers to as a lover, “I want your love, and I want your revenge / You and me could write a bad romance”. But despite the ominous tone of the track, the music is incredibly catchy. The trademark dancey beats which have made Gaga popular are still present and are infectious as ever. Tracks ‘Monster’ and ‘Dance In The Dark’ also possess menacing lyrics, Gaga sings in the latter “Silicone, saline, poison, inject me, baby I’m a free bitch”. But, once more the words are disguised behind cheery melodies – upbeat 90’s synths to be exact. Eurovision anyone?

Perhaps even more significant than these Europop-approved songs is her duet with fellow superstar Beyoncé Knowles. Together the dream team create a masterpiece of a song, ‘Telephone’, which has hit written all over it. Again, the cheesy rave synths are there – think Britney prior shaven head, but undeniably it is one of those tracks that will never get boring, regardless of how many times you hear it.

‘The Fame Monster’ is literally bursting with contagious pop tunes, every track on this record could quite easily be released as a single and receive chart-topping success. Gaga‘s creativity reaches new extremes on this effort and quite frankly her desire to always be famous is likely to be fulfilled if she continues to produce hit after hit. Everything that was on her debut album is ultimately still present on this record – poppy beats, rave synths, lyrics divulging into the world of fame and fortune. But somehow Gaga manages to make everything sound fresh, new and original.

Gaga‘s got the goods that everybody wants and having just announced that she’s already working on her next release, the hype around this fascinating lady isn’t disappearing in the forseeable future. This chick is in it for the long haul. Madonna, I suggest you start panicking.

Written by Kate Rees

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ALBUM: Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life

Release Date: April 20th, 2009
Label: Century Media
Website: www.lacunacoil.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lacunacoil

Rating:

Lacuna Coil are one of many bands that I cannot seem to like no matter how hard I try. The Italian six-piece fit into the gothic metal genre that personally I don’t find appealing. I would love to say that upon listening to their fifth studio album ‘Shallow Life’ that I’ve been converted to the dark side, but if truth be told I haven’t. Fortunately for a band that have been making music for 15 years, they have a solid fanbase who will lap up whatever they can get.

‘Shallow Life’ is one of the most anticipated albums of 2009, mainly due to the band working with producer Don Gilmore (who’s worked with Linkin Park, Pearl Jam). The 12 tracks have clearly been thought out carefully and there’s no denying that the sextet have worked hard. Yet, considering the Italian group have been working on this album since 2007, you can’t help but feel dissatisfied with the end result.

As per usual, it’s often hard to feel that Cristina Scabbia‘s vocals fit the heavy music driving it. Her voice is suited for bigger and better things that don’t involve what Lacuna Coil holds for her. Yes I’m being a little harsh but let’s be frank here, Scabbia‘s sex appeal is the only reason the band are so popular. Andrea Ferro‘s vocals are weak to say the least, and his monotonous tone is extremely irritating. Guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi are not to be overlooked, and it is fair to say that they have truly given it their all. Bassist Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi and drummer Cristiano ‘CriZ’ Mozzati have also worked hard and it is clear to see they have matured as musicians over the years from the bands inception.

However, ‘Shallow Life’ differs a lot from previous releases and it appears that the band are moving away from their heavy roots. It’s great to experiment with your sound and all that jazz, but when it provides you with your weakest sounding album it’s probably best to stick to familiar ground. Lead single ‘Spellbound’ is the strongest melodic track on the album, so the fact it’s the first promotional push for the record is nothing but a good thing. Lacuna Coil‘s marketing team are certainly doing their job right, as this song provides a false illusion as to what the rest of the album will sound like. Another stand-out is opening track ‘Survive’. Being one of the heavier offerings on ‘Shallow Life’ it is similar in sound to old school Lacuna Coil, which proves perhaps they should take a step back and expand on that area before taking anymore steps forward.

‘Shallow Life’ will be loved by loyal fans without question, for those of you who are intrigued as to what gothic metal sounds like, you’re best off listening to something from the band’s earlier releases. Lacuna Coil have failed to bring their best to the table, and quite frankly I’ve given up hope of ever liking the music they make.

Written by Kate Rees

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