Friday, 23 August 2019

RW Hedges - The Hills Are Old Songs

Released: Aug 2019
Label: Wonderfulsound
Listen on Bandcamp

I have only been listening to London based songwriter RW Hedges for a few months but he has already become a favourite of mine. This is his third album, and the follow-up to last year's lost classic -  'The Hunters in the Snow'.  

Childhood friend and talented musician - Luca Nieri, co-wrote the music and produced the album. He has some impressive solo albums himself, full of lovely folk instrumentals. RW Hedges' sound is largely folk but with an array of influences, from 50's Easy Listening and Doo Wop, to the vocal harmony groups of the 60's. 

It opens with 'Haven't Seen Her In A While', a timeless ballad, which is so beautiful and heartbreaking. On first listen, I couldn't help but get a bit teary eyed. It expresses such a lot of emotion which is rare in most recent music. 

'Down to Venezuela' is a joyous song, and creates imagery of life in the bygone era of the Wild West. It is so melodically perfect, you will be humming along. A lot of the songs here are Western themed but it is charming, rather than overbearing which can be the case with themed albums. 

'Deep in the Valley' another highlight, tells the story of a cowboy outlaw. It is beautifully written with sublime melodies and there is also a hint of sadness. 'My Dearest' is one of the sweetest songs you will ever hear. It is delicate and full of emotion, yet has the simplicity of a lullaby. 

'Sure Enough' is also very moving and has themes of loss and loneliness. The aching vocals at the end of the chorus, again are hard to listen to without feeling emotional.

This album only goes further in proving RW Hedges has a unique and rare talent, the kind which doesn't come around too often. I believe in years to come his albums will be regarded as 'classics', which they deserve to be.  

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Rails - Cancel The Sun

Released: Aug 2019
Label: Thirty Tigers 
Listen on Spotify

London Folk duo, The Rails, return with their third album, Cancel The Sun. They are a new discovery for me and I was so impressed by this collection of folk inspired, guitar pop songs, rich in vocal harmonies and dark lyrics.

It opens with my favourite on the album - 'Call Me When it All Goes Wrong', which is a sad song about a complicated relationship. The music is upbeat and anthemic with a superb chorus. 

Their sound combines folk with more mainstream rock and it works so well. The songs are really varied, with some songs closer to traditional folk. Kami is the daughter of Folk legend Richard Thompson, and you can definitely hear his influence here.

'Save The Planet' is a hard-hitting song about Climate Change. Lyrically it is very dark, suggesting humankind should sacrifice their own lives so the planet can be saved. It is a beautiful song with an important message. There are not enough songs being written about this issue.

'Something is Slipping My Mind' is a highlight and is a lovely ballad. The vocal harmonies in this, echo back to the 50's and 60's. There is so much raw emotion conveyed here too, it can be hard to listen to without being affected by it in some way.

Other highlights include 'Ball and Chain' which is another catchy pop song, with great melodies. 'The Inheritance' is more traditional folk and quite powerful with heavy guitars and superb vocal harmonies. 

This album will probably go on to be one of my most played of the year. An essential listen.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The Embryos - Open The Kimono +3

Released: Aug 2019 (on CD)
Label: Kool Kat Musik
Listen on Bandcamp

Chicago band, The Embryos are another new discovery for me and I was instantly drawn in by their melodic power pop songs. This album was originally out last year but is now available for the first time on CD.

'Circleville' is the opening song and it immediately drew to mind Tom Petty and the 90's power pop of Velvet Crush. The chorus has an anthemic quality to it. The songs on this album are not short of strong, memorable hooks.

The best song here is 'Ghost Dreams, Mainly'. It is a beautiful but sad song looking back on a past relationship. The music itself is upbeat and energetic with aching harmonies in the chorus. There is some great guitar work and psychedelic jamming towards the end. The whole song is pretty epic, and well worth a listen.  

Other highlights are 'The Frightened Few' and 'Eleven Forty'. Both are melodically strong and very catchy. The psychedelic element is still prominent, especially in the former.

There are 3 extra songs here, singles which were previously only available on 7" vinyl. 'Wasting all my Time' is the best of these and very jangly like The Byrds. It features some great guitar solos too.

On the whole, this album is well worth investigating. It's well-written with some really memorable songs and melodies. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The Amber List - The Ever Present Elephant EP

Released: Jul 2019
Label: _
Listen on Spotify

The Amber List are a fairly new band from Preston, Lancashire. Their EP has 80's jangle vibes and demonstrates some superb song-writing. 

It opens with 'Cold Callers' which is a great anthem about the difficulties of getting by. It features some really thought provoking lyrics: 'Trying to make a living in a country that's divided, self-serving, unforgiving.' Clearly a reference to the current state of the country's politics! 

'Hiding in Plain Sight' is the best song here. On first listen it bought to mind the jangle of The La's, Echo & The Bunnymen and C86 indie. It is so catchy and enjoyable to listen to. It is also super melodic with the Ba Ba Ba's at the end. Probably one of my favourite songs of the year so far.  

'Down our Street' has a much more laid back vibe and wistful lyrics. 'The Golden Light' is also a favourite and features some beautiful harmonies. It ends on 'First Steps', which is quite angry in tone. It is again about life's hardships. The guitars in this reminded me of The Smiths.

This EP is an essential listen, especially for the superb 'Hiding in Plain Sight'. I look forward to hearing a full album from them, hopefully soon.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Harrison Clock - Winesburg

Released: May 2019
Label: Birs Recordings
Listen on Bandcamp

Harrison Clock is a really recent discovery for me, even though he has been making music for 30 years. I know little about him but he is from Michigan and this is a themed album based on Sherwood Anderson's novel of the same name.  

The opening track 'Andersonville' is the perfect introduction. It is mostly instrumental and I actually found this so moving to listen to. It is also weirdly atmospheric and would easily fit in a movie. One of the most beautiful and unique pieces of music I have heard all year.

The sound of the album is largely Americana but there are more modern, indie rock vibes, especially evident in the song 'Trunion Row'. Its quite unusual and even has electronic beats but strangely doesn't sound out of place.

'An Awakening' is another highlight and sounds a little like Crosby, Stills & Nash. Its quite simple and pastoral but sang with a lot of emotion. Again, it is strangely moving.

'A Man of No Distinction' draws heavily from the novel and is one of the best songs. Many of the songs on here are character based but I don't think you need to have read the book to appreciate it.

This album is well worth a listen, especially for 'Andersonville' which is simply a beautiful song. Its hard to comprehend that something with so few words can be so powerful. I will be checking out a lot more from this artist.

Friday, 2 August 2019

The Vapour Trails - See You In The Next World

Released: 2 Aug 2019
Label: Futureman Records
Listen on Bandcamp

I have been listening to The Vapour Trails for a while now and this is their long awaited debut. It is full of psychedelic pop gems and I'd highly recommend it.   

The band hail from Aberdeen, Scotland and include father and son - Kevin and Scott Robertson. They are exceptional musicians and there is some really great guitar work on this album.

The album opens with 'Sonic Wave', which is very melodic and laid back with 60's jangle vibes. I would say The Byrds are the biggest influence here. 'The Inner Truth' reminds me of 'Turn Turn Turn' but is just as enjoyable and a great song. 

'Drag it Around' is my favourite song on the album. There are really sweet harmonies throughout and it reminds me of Teenage Fanclub at their most melodic. 'Shatter The Sky' has more of a Neil Young feel to it, especially with the brilliant guitar solos at the end.

'Godspeed It', a break-up song, is one of the best songs here and brought to mind New Order - 'Regret'. The album ends on the psychedelic anthem and title song - 'See You in the Next World'. Again, it features some really great guitar work and superb harmonies.

This is such an impressive debut album and anyone who likes 60's inspired guitar pop should check it out. I hope there is a lot more to come from them.