The Prodigy – Light Up The Sky
As easy as it is to view The Prodigy as just part of the furniture in the UK alternative music landscape, it’s still worth remembering that The Fat Of The Land was a genuinely game-changing album for music in general, marking them out as one of the few electronic acts to infiltrate the rock and even metal world who’ve been met with almost unanimous acceptance. The fact that they’ve managed to keep that vicious momentum up is just icing on the cake, only really faltering with The Day Is My Enemy in 2015, and even then, not by much. With Light Up The Sky though, it’s the sort of single from The Prodigy whose existence remains welcome, but will never surpass some of the genuine classics they have under their belt, though the fact that instrumentally this is more or less a total lift from Take Me To The Hospital would suggest the band would say otherwise. But again, it’s a song from The Prodigy, and fundamentally, it does everything it needs to to succeed, as Liam Howlett continues to be a master craftsman at hard-hitting electronic beats that easily show how they’ve become such a success in metal communities, while Maxim Reality spits the odd word over it and lets the vocal sample do the rest. It’s pretty cut-and-dry when it comes to what The Prodigy have been doing for years now, but it gets there at least. It’s a new Prodigy song, and that’s exactly what it feels like.
Muse – Pressure
The fact that Muse have described Pressure as a “straight Muse rock track” is faintly hilarious, because that would imply that anyone knows what that phrase entails anymore. Let’s face it – Muse clearly have no idea what they’re doing anymore if their last handful of albums are anything to go by, and the fact they’re apparently meant to be following some kind of convention here is just a ludicrous statement all the way through. It’s not like the song itself is any less ludicrous either, especially given that a “straight Muse rock track” has never involved watered-down ‘70s power-pop riffs bolted onto some vaguely sci-fi-inspired whirs and Matt Bellamy’s willowy vocals that desperately can’t match up. Suffice to say, it’s really not good, and the fact that it could be what Muse were actually aiming for on a track like this makes the prospect of that upcoming album all the more worrying. The video’s fun though, so there’s that.
Coheed And Cambria – Old Flames
The absolute best thing about Coheed And Cambria is that, even among their multi-album, multi-layered space opera that never seems to be drawing any closer to conclusion, and even while being the flag-bearers for modern progressive rock at its most intricate and expansive, they continue to write songs like they’re going to be the biggest smash hits imaginable. And sure, a similar point was made when they released The Gutter a few weeks ago, but with Old Flames, it arguably stands even taller, with Claudio Sanchez’s penchant for sweet pop-rock melodies coming through in full force with still not neglecting the fact that this is a prog track nestled into the impossibly complex Amory Wars narrative. But even then, there’s nothing lost by simply taking this at face value; the guitars and drums bounce with a verve that only the most exuberant of summer hits have, and Sanchez is such a master craftsman when it comes to hooks that get stuck in your head for days on end. It’s just the best kind of song from Coheed And Cambria, with so much charm and personality that, even away from the overall concept, sees them land country miles ahead of anyone doing anything even remotely similar.
Atreyu – The Time Is Now
With both Anger Left Behind and In Our Wake, Atreyu have made it pretty clear where they want to go with their upcoming album, pushing metalcore to the sidelines in favour of big radio-rock songs where each one feels emptier than the last, and considering that Atreyu have been solid at hard rock in the past, it feels like such a huge waste of resources. Well, The Time Is Now does absolutely nothing to change that, is this is yet another dashing of white paint on the white wall that has been this band’s recent single rollout. Apparently it was inspired by the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and how that can serve as an inspiration to change one’s life for the better, but that easily slots into the self-esteem mould that this song peddles, complete with plenty of drawn-out chants for that extra padding. Even just from a musical standpoint, this is so unbelievably sub-par, with the typical haze of guitars draped over the chorus, crashing drums to emulate some variety of bombast, and flat, colourless production to yank everything in place. At least Brandon Saller is really going for it in his hook, but Alex Varkatzas sounds like he genuinely couldn’t care less over these lifeless verses. It’s just a really lacklustre song in almost every sense, not helped by the fact that both of its predecessors have been more or less the same.
Saves The Day – Kerouac & Cassady
If this new single and Rendezvous are anything to go by, the general framework of Saves The Day’s upcoming album looks to be heavily focused on nostalgia and revisiting the past, and that’s a bit disappointing in all honesty. After all, they’ve been around almost twenty-five years at this point, so you’d think they’d be able to come up with something a bit more imaginative than the bread and butter of most pop-punk and emo. And just like Rendezvous, Kerouac & Cassady falls in the same zone of being fundamentally good but having precious little beyond that, reading as basically a checklist of past events from tours gone by as a very basic riff stomps by and Chris Conley’s honks sound arguably more nasal than ever. Granted, with this being a Saves The Day song, there’s good command of melody all the way through, and it’s certainly likable in its general adoration and starry-eyedness of the past, but at the same time it feels like a rote, roundabout way of getting new music out with very little effort, and that’s not great.
The Word Alive, The Glitch Mob & Mako – Rise
As strange as the combination of The Word Alive and two prominent electronic acts may be, this isn’t, in fact, the genesis of some drastic new direction for any of them. Instead, this is actually the theme song for the 2018 League Of Legends World Championship, and as such, it’s worth tempering any expectations of this being some fantastic opus, mostly because it’s really not. For the sort of big-room, pump-up electronic song they’re going for, it’s absolutely fine; the clattering pseudo-dubstep beats are pretty much the only thing that stands out, and while Telle Smith’s vocals are crushed to borderline unrecognisable levels, he’s got a decent amount of presence here, particularly when his chorus contributions primarily rely on repeating the word “rise” over and over again. On the other hand though, the lack of any real form means that constant drops grate in record time, and it’s hard to see where the majority of these contributors fit in, especially the rest of The Word Alive. Saying that though, criticising a track like this, designed to be used once and then never paid attention to again, is ultimately pointless; it does its job, and that’s fine.
Normandie – Enough
If Normandie had been around during the years of synthetic metalcore’s dominance, they could be world-beaters by now. Inguz was okay on its own, but given the context of a time when mediocrity seemed to run rampant around every corner, they would’ve definitely had a shot at being something much bigger. But now, when that scene is pretty much dead and buried, Normandie are left to fashion whatever dregs are left into something workable, which has proven to be a fairly thankless task. In all fairness, Enough isn’t awful at all – Philip Strand has clarity and passion in his vocals, and the general sense of melody and enormous hook-crafting is as good as ever – but with production that feels completely impenetrable in its suffocating of any guitar work, not to mention the superfluous electronic whines to highlight how studio-dependent this really is, this feels like a track that’s wandered in from 2011, and for all the futureproofing that’s been intended, it doesn’t sound like it belongs, at least not how it should. And again, a hook can do a lot of heavy lifting with a song like this, but Normandie are going to have to rely on more than that in the long run to get by, because that can only work for them for so long.
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams / Accelerate
House Of Keys mightn’t have been that bad of a song overall, but in terms of the usually diverse, layered music that’s become a staple of Fucked Up’s opuses, the reliance on more standardised, brash hardcore didn’t really hit home in the same way. But because this is Fucked Up and nothing ever stays boring or static for too long, now we’ve got two new tracks, both of which veer off in wildly different directions and bring into question just how Dose Your Dreams as an album is going to achieve its clearly enormous vision. In a bubble though, there’s a lot to like about these two tracks, the title track especially, as a steady disco groove in the bass and strings and a quiet simmer from Damien Abraham builds up to a louder, more visceral delivery that fits this instrumentation really well. As for Accelerate, it’s not quite as good (as is often the case in Fucked Up’s more traditional hardcore-leaning tracks), but in terms of sheer riotous force, its noise-rock crunch holds enough power and resolution to really make a mark, helped a lot in that department by the screeching production which fits the ambition excellently. Because this is Fucked Up though, they’ll probably work better integrated into the track list, but the fact that this band are still making defiantly unpredictable turns like this on what is essentially the eve of their album’s release is enough to be excited about what’s coming, no matter how it turns out.
Toothgrinder – The Chain
Covering Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is hardly uncharted waters for metal bands; hell, the only reason that Taking Dawn had the career they did was from doing that exact thing. Toothgrinder, though, are good enough on their own merits and really don’t need that sort of boon, and thus, the fact that their version isn’t as good or distinctive as so much of their other material isn’t too much of a blow. It’d still be nice to see what more they could’ve done though, rather than customarily beefing up the main chorus riff to emphasise its chug and generally taking those vocal harmonies in a gnarlier direction. That’s all well and good, but it’s also something that Toothgrinder could do in their sleep, and while this isn’t a bad cover by any stretch, it feels more like an unnecessary one, particularly when the band doing the covering are capable of so much more. Still, it’s fine for a bit of fun, and the fact that nothing too major is resting on its success is reason enough to give it a bit more of a pass than it maybe deserves.
The Wild Things – Tell Me Why
You’re Really Something was a particularly strong single for The Wild Things, not because it was particularly striking (which it really wasn’t), but because in terms of sheer melodic prowess and compositional skills, it showed a band with a great deal to offer, especially in a more rootsy, Americana-inspired route. Tell Me Why, on the other hand, verges on the same thing, but whether it’s the greater deal of clarity in its Britrock leanings or the fact that it really should explode more than it does, it feels a bit off. It’s definitely not bad – there’s plenty of emotion in Sydney Rae White’s vocals that works especially well for this sort of towering, pensive ballad – but the reluctance to really go for broke in a bigger way is what ultimately holds it back. All the pieces are there as well, in the distinct, muscular guitars and percussion that could have a bit more body but does well at holding everything in place. Up to now, this is probably the weakest track The Wild Things have released, not enough to deter from the upcoming album but it’s definitely a bump in the previously-smooth road.
Polyphia – Yas
It seems after CHON’s Homey combined progressive rock with contemporary electronic music to frankly stunning effect last year, it’s something that’s caught on among the wider scene, especially with Polyphia’s upcoming album being marketed as a fusion between prog and trap. Purists may sneer, but it seems like a natural progression for the genre, especially with tracks like Yas that show the successful melding of the two styles to be anything but a fluke. Granted, having CHON guitarists Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel onboard could definitely be a factor in that, but with the crystal-clear production, the laser-focused intricacy of the guitar work and the near-perfect integration between Clay Aeschliman’s drumming and the more synthetic trap percussion, the whole piece really hits the ground running on all fronts. It’s almost something that bucks against the tropes of instrumental rock, condensing everything down into a manageable three-and-a-half minutes that manages to grab the attention for every second of it. It’s just generally great all around, and presents Polyphia as one of the progressive bands currently sitting way ahead of the curve.
Sinsaenum – Hooch
Sinsaenum’s dedication to being a great band in their own right and not succumbing to the traditional supergroup trappings is impressive to see, especially when they clout they have would give them every right to simply run on fumes and reap the same rewards. As such, this previously unreleased cover of the Melvins’ Hooch arrives as a precursor to their upcoming tour, and while it’s hardly an essential piece within the Sinsaenum canon, it’s good to see a band like this do something for the sake of a bit of fun. The death metal guitars have been toned down slightly for more stoned-out grunge vibe, but it’s something that works surprisingly well alongside the deep, grinding vocals, and the final product becomes surprisingly easy to get into. Again, it’s nothing really special – it’s clear that Sinsaenum’s penchant for longer, more dense songs won’t be replaced by this – but for another fix of a band clearly on the up within the death metal scene, this does the job perfectly well.
Scarlxrd – BERZERK.
For as much flak as we’ve given Scarlxrd over his militant single rollout over the past few weeks, it’s worth remembering why he broke out originally in his fusion of trap and metal that was far more aggressive than most other emo-rappers, but still had the defined hip-hop core. And of the many singles he’s released, BERZERK. is by far the closest he’s come to recapturing that searing power he once had. The beats and bass feel acerbic but not overbearingly heavy, and screams are kept as an accompaniment rather than the entire vocal section to drown out everything else, and thus Scarlxrd is allowed to show off how skilled of a technical rapper he actually is with nimble, lightning-fast flows that are actually impressive. Even if the lyrics don’t amount to much beyond the usual minimal semantic sphere of trap, the fact that this actually feels like some effort has been put in for once greatly overshadows a shortcoming like that. Without a doubt, this is the best of Scarlxrd’s series of singles, and more like this would be greatly appreciated in the future.
Catch Fire – Heist
Considering how much pop-punk is losing its luster nowadays, Catch Fire seem to be heading a promising direction by simply doing it better than everyone else on their level; the singles from the upcoming album have greatly impressed so far, and with Heist that doesn’t seem to be changing. A key factor in this success is how much of an onus the band put on the emo aspects of their sound, letting guitars linger and ferment in a way that just sounds so much bigger. Even in terms of emotion in the lyrics, that instrumental canvas lends itself to a description of mental illness that hits so much harder than the typical detail-lacking fare. And sure, all of this might sound pretty basic and the fundamentals of the sound, and while it honestly is, Catch Fire just do it more effectively than so many others, and that’s worth giving them the praise.
John Nolan – Do You Remember?
As integral of a member of Taking Back Sunday as he is, it’s worth appreciated how much of a storied solo catalogue John Nolan has, and how his status as one of the bigger names in the scene hasn’t left his staid like with so many. Instead, Do You Remember? is the product of constant evolution, taking the tense, gravelly indie-emo framework and greatly upping the amount of electronic elements for a much wider, more atmospheric tableau than before. It really does sound great as well, particularly in the seething chorus that never quite explodes, but always feels on the cusp of genuine rage that’s executed with pinpoint precision. If there’s any negative, it might be that it goes on a bit long – presumably with said electronics serving as “justification” for doing so – but besides that, Nolan really has come out of the gates swinging for his next solo album, and a track like this is the kind that makes you sit up and pay attention.
Fame On Fire – I Love It
Chances are you’ll have heard Kanye West and Lil Pump’s I Love It by now, the sort of rap song that could only exist with the advent of meme culture and with the sort of inane video that paradoxically only makes it even better. So trust Fame On Fire to come along and suck away any entertainment factor just like they did with Lil Uzi Vert’s XO Tour Llif3. For one, the solid bassline of the original is present here for about ten seconds until it’s shunted out of the way for boring metalcore plods that lend nothing to song like this whatsoever. Then there’s Bryan Kuznitz’ vocals, and there’s something so profoundly awkward about the whole thing, whether it’s the simple concept of this sort of deliberately over-the-top bragging coming from such a stiff performer, or his weird mishmash of his own voice with what sounds like an impression of Kanye’s in the spoken section. In fact, awkward is definitely the best description for this, and really all of Fame On Fire’s covers to date. They clearly have no knowledge of how to construct a trap song beyond thrusting into basic metalcore frameworks for the sake of gimmick, and for as derivative and flat as so many of them can be, there’s more entertainment to be gleaned from them than this.
Mono – After You Comes The Flood
With After You Comes The Flood, it feels like Mono are playing post-rock in the exact way it’s supposed to be done, and serving as the score to Julien Levy’s striking and provocative short film that accompanies it, it really works in the intended way. The quiet moments have that delicacy that intent, only to smash them into powder when the crashing guitars and drums come in to lend such a palpable sense of menace and dread. Of course, the song needs to be examined as an individual piece to, and while it still feels like an impressively resolute work, the effect isn’t quite the same, and that can hurt Mono going forward if that’s not remedied. Sure, atmosphere designed with visuals in mind is fine, but the song needs to suffice on its own without that accompaniment to really work, and Mono haven’t quite hit that mark yet. Still, as an art piece, this is pretty great stuff, and the two elements in tandem really do stand as essential viewing to get the full picture and the best possible effect.
SPINN – Boredom
You can’t help but feel bad for bands like SPINN, the sort of upcoming indie bands bestowed floods of praise and hyperbole by the appropriate outlets that rarely translates to the wider world. Sure, it happens in some cases, but that only highlights how success is down to the right break at the right time. As such, it’s hard to blame SPINN for falling in line with most other indie-pop in their lane for Boredom, the sort of pleasant, chiming little tune that, given the right push, could shift some units, but that would also involved discounting the vast number of other bands that are going through the exact same artistic motions. And that’s a very real issue here, given that the twinkly guitar lines and Jonny Quin’s youthful sincerity could belong to virtually any other band in this field, and that doesn’t help when you want to stand out. At the end of the day though, the argument can still be made that SPINN are still finding their feet, but given how quickly the indie tides move, they’ll have to get a move on, because they won’t be getting far for long by sounding like this.
Lee Corey Oswald – Head Over Heels
In the four years since Lee Corey Oswald last released an album, they’ve taken some knock-backs, both in losing their bassist and leaving their former label. But even away from the music, there’s a sense of galvanisation within the band, now due to release their next album on AntI-Flag’s A-F Records and re-foster the punk rock ethos that their previous Warped Tour scene had lost touch with. And that’s definitely palpable in Head Over Heels, the sound of an older, more mature band with a heavy weight bearing down on them, but coming out unscathed with a really solid alt-punk track. Of course, through genre conventions alone, the comparison points to countless others feel almost too obvious to mention, but in the overcast, grungy guitars and hangdog delivery, Lee Corey Oswald are able to tap into a sense of melancholy that’s always worked with this sort of punk, and most likely always will. The ending’s a bit abrupt, but when that’s the most emphatic criticism that can be made, you know this is a pretty good track.
Dan Lancaster – Wild Life
Given the scores of acts his production has sent into superstardom, it makes sense that Dan Lancaster is trying his hand at solo material, and given the decent reception that Move A Mountain got, the rapid turnaround time for Wild Life feels pretty natural. As for the song itself, it definitely hits some sort of expectation of producer-driven modern pop with the big synth lines and prominent beats, and Lancaster himself is expressive enough as a vocalist to give the admittedly bare content about escapism. The problem comes with the general kinetic nature, and how the chopped-and-screwed pace feels incredibly uncomfortable and stilted, not enough to full render the track unworkable (and really, Lancaster as a vocalist does a lot of the heavy lifting to prevent that), but at a time when sleek, wiry pop is in vogue, there’s an awkwardness about how lumpen this can be that sometimes feels more prominent than it should. Still, the fact that anything workable at all has come from this shows Lancaster’s knack for musicianship, and even if it’s not particularly amazing, it does enough to build up some sort of anticipation for what’s next, and that’s definitely a victory.
River Fury – Wasteful
For what is openly described by River Fury themselves as “one of [their] heavier, chaotic punk rock songs”, Wasteful doesn’t actually seem all that heavy or chaotic. In fact, with the strutting guitar line and ringing riff-and-synth combinations, it’s not that far removed from modern indie in its acquisition of watery, psychedelic textures. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing and the song itself is still rather decent, it would be nice to see what River Fury could actually do if they applied themselves a bit more to moving in that heavier direction. As of now, it sounds a bit too much like they’re hitting half-measures, and compared to their Sonic Youth and Lemonheads influences that can be quite clearly heard here, that’s not a watermark they’re hitting just yet. Still, that might be coming down a bit too hard on what is, for all intents and purposes, a decent track with enough jangly, watery texture to be likable even if not that memorable in the long term. There’s a good foundation here, at least, but River Fury need to move beyond just that if they want go any further.
She Makes War – London Bites
If there’s one thing that stands out about Laura Kidd’s work as She Makes War above anything else, it’s the complete disregard for anything even approaching indie-rock convention. London Bites is the perfect example of that, trading any sort of size or melodic grandeur for deep bass work and an oppressive air of melancholy and depression, something that Kidd’s ethereal, often ghostly vocals work really well against. It weaves well into the lyrics as well, recounting her moving to the big city to chase her dreams as a musician, and highlighting both her naivety in the situation and unforgivingness of everyone around her. In terms of Kidd’s singles from her upcoming album, it’s possible the most striking yet, and while none have that much marked presence outside of their own sense of atmosphere, London Bites feels the most defined and comfortable in what it is, somewhat ironically given that this is nothing close to a comfortable listen. It’s definitely good though, and while expectations for the upcoming She Makes War album were previously shaky, this brings a bit more hope to the matter.
Heavens Blade – Spoiled Rotten
For fans of heavy, dark music, Heavens Blade certainly seem to tick all the right boxes, bringing together Sara Taylor of Youth Code along with members of Suicide Silence, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson for no-bullshit hardcore punk that’s in and out in just over a minute. And if that’s what you’re into, then Spoiled Rotten should be an absolute treat, as rampaging guitars and drums that sound like they were recorded within inches of each other clash beneath production that doesn’t even have of whiff of polish to it. As for Taylor, her sneering, slurring vocals channel an even grittier Brody Dale in the best way – much better than The Distillers recent return did – and when it all comes together, there’s a ferociousness that’s hard to deny or look away from. Perhaps just a few more seconds wouldn’t be out of the question, if only to boost the enjoyment up a bit more, but for this brand of hardcore where brevity and power royally trumps everything, Heavens Blade are making encouraging first steps.
Vaureen – Extraterra
As far as spurious comparisons to largely unrelated artists go, the assertions of Vaureen sounding like a cross between Chelsea Wolfe and The Sword is probably one of the most accurate in some time. It can definitely be felt in Secret with its enormous, foreboding sense of sheer atmosphere, and in Andrea Horne’s delicate but impending vocal presence billowing out. There’s an enormous sense of power, driven by the dusty stoner-rock low end with the clean, chiming guitar passages over it as the necessary source of light. In terms of grasping the impact of Horne’s synesthesia, it’s such an evocative soundscape that it might just do that, as it swirls dark blues and purples in a way that most shoegaze wishes it could achieve. It’s a potent listen for sure, and while a bit of time is needed to get the real impact, when it hits, it’s borderline unmatched.
As Everything Unfolds – Despondency
It was only a matter of time before the increased popularity of Dream State led to more bands taking up a similar style of melodic, polished post-hardcore for their own piece of the pie. And with As Everything Unfolds, it really wouldn’t be unfair to say they’re doing just that, particularly in the sweeping, bombastic instrumentation, Charlie Rolfe’s incredibly pronounced, powerful vocals that aren’t a million miles away from CJ Gilpin’s, and lyrics detailing some form of mental anguish but framed in a way to keep it as broad and populist as possible. There’s the touch of some screams and heavier breakdowns at the very end which would suggest they’ve got cards they’re keeping to their chest at the minute, but it would be nicer to see what As Everything Unfolds can do right out of the gate, rather than teasing for next time when it’s a very real possibility that people won’t be enticed to check it out. At least this isn’t a total wash and is likely to bring listeners back in some capacity, but it’s hard to predict if anything more will actually come from it.
Paper Fairy – Haunted
There are so many people who’ll find so much to like about Paper Fairy. It feels as though Chris Gaskell has distilled hipster-indie down to its most potent form here, and Haunted sits as the cocktail waiting to be ingested by bloggers and tastemakers looking for the next hot name to get out there. That alone should offer a pretty decent summation of what this track is like, and how the hype that will no doubt be bestowed upon Paper Fairy isn’t really worth it. That’s not to say it’s an awful project, as with the shuffling guitar line and glassy synths, there’s a solid grasp on instrumentation atmosphere on both sides of the kinetic spectrum, but with the grainy production over Gaskell’s already contorting voice, it’s just not pleasant to listen to, and bears all the usual hallmarks of an indie vocalist with too much personality and without the knowledge of how to use it effectively. And that’s fine, but it doesn’t make this a very memorable listen, and just like so many other indie upstarts destined to be touted as the “next big thing”, Haunted fades sooner rather than later.
Black Coast – S.L.Y
It’s appropriate that Black Coast’s upcoming tour will see them hit the road with MSRY, the upstart metallic hardcore band channeling great deals of aggression and misanthropy into great music. It remains to be seen whether Black Coast will be able to surpass that, though, but S.L.Y is definitely a good place to start, holding tightly to that hardcore influence but tempering it with something much better and reminiscent of the modern metal of a band like While She Sleeps. That’s definitely a good thing as well, not only giving this track a fresh dimension and more room to really show off an impressive knack for scope and melody, but leaving greater scope for the lyrics to hang and really exude their darkness to the best of their abilities. And sure, it’s not entirely different from what a lot of hardcore and metal bands are doing, but Black Coast definitely seem to be doing more than just sliding into the status quo, and hopefully a full release will see that shine even more.
Kingswood – Messed It Up
With alternative music pulling from more diverse sounds than ever before, it’s not exactly uncommon to hear far wider varieties of non-rock sounds than ever before, for better or for worse. Fortunately, Melbourne’s Kindswood at least know how to use this to their advantage more than others, and as such, Messed It Up comes sliding out of the gate with glassy synths, tight, punchy beats, and Fergus Linacre’s vocals that have the range and pinpoint precision of a truly great R&B singer. It’s emphatically a crossover sound done right, and if anything, focusing on tweaking their pop sounds to absolute perfection actually works out better than shoving in perfunctory guitars to appeal to more people; it’s lightweight, sure, but it carries all that it can and that’s a good compositional move to take onboard. Really, the fact that Kingswood do present themselves in such a smooth, preened way ultimately leads to greater results, simply because they can make the most of it, and when a song like Messed It Up comes from that, you can’t complain.
Neon Saturdays – Phoenix
Regardless of how well it works, it’s easy to see what Neon Saturdays are doing. Alt-pop has become such a marketable commodity that it would be naive not to capitalise on it if you can, especially given how many acts have shot up the ranks thanks to adopting the sound. And with Phoenix, it’s easy to predict a trajectory for Neon Saturdays akin to a band like Eliza & The Bear, that being a meteoric burst of popularity followed by a just-as-meteoric fall back to earth. That’s not to say this is a bad song though – it’s pleasant enough with it’s gentle, watery acoustic melodies and Andries Evelis’ pristine vocal delivery – but it’s very much a seasonal case, as in it may stick around for a bit only to be muscled away by the next indie-pop upstarts who, frankly, will sound pretty much the same. As unfortunate as it may be to admit, this is nothing new by any stretch, and Neon Saturdays playing to the indie-pop rulebook word for word is hardly going to land them anything long term, rather one or two spurts before clawing together whatever they can afterwards.
Never Us – Retrograde
To an extent, Never Us’ sound makes a lot of sense considering their work with From First To Last’s Matt Good and his history when it comes to production, particularly recently. As such, Retrograde feels like the inevitable amalgam of all of those factors, bringing together the hyper-modern hip-hop production, crunchier but still cleanly-produced metalcore guitars, and in Jesse Clark, a vocalist that can sell heartfelt and smooth enough to make a workable solo R&B career further on down the line. Basically, they’re trying to be Issues, and they do succeed in the sense that this incredibly silky take on post-hardcore does tread more lines than it arguably should and comes out fairly solidly in the end. After all, the hooks are pretty decent and it’s all produced well enough to hit those marks of quality. But there’s no way around how much cheaper it sounds than the band Never Us are clearly trying to emulate, and from the sunken guitars on the hook the echoing “oh-oh” chants, it’s all primed in a way to capitalise on the rough patch Issues are currently going through and fill in the gap by any means necessary. Maybe with a bit more time Never Us could do that, but right now, that’s not going to happen.
Goldblume – Husk
Given the advent of math-rock and quirkier indie-rock’s greater widespread success, it’s not a surprise that bands like Goldblume continue to emerge, with each on attempting to pile a little something of their own onto the pre-existing formula. With this trio, it’s a sense of precariousness that makes Husk one hell of a ride, with the rubbery guitar work and Jethro Steel’s yelping vocals that are a good deal looser than so much of modern rock in any bracket. And in the long run, that’s definitely a good way for Goldblume to build up an identity for themselves, especially when they’re as purposefully loud and chaotic as they are. But then again, it can feel a bit much at times, and beyond the instrumentation which is overall fine in its more ragged tone, there’s an obnoxiousness that’s hard to miss, and that will hopefully be sanded down in time. If it is, there’ll be a much better band in Goldblume’s place; they’re laying down decent groundwork, but building something better on it will be the real test.
Voices From The Fuselage – Nine Levels
It takes something genuinely impressive to stand out within progressive rock these days, and just from their potted biography which reads like that of any of the millions of new bands who’ve just started out, you wouldn’t really get that from Voices From The Fuselage. They’re a decent prog act for sure, but a pop influence isn’t that much of a selling point, especially when it amounts to little more than what the post-hardcore scene has been doing for the last few years. And unfortunately, nothing has really changed with Nine Levels, with an admittedly impressive clarity and fluidity in Ashe O’Hara’s vocals pitted alongside instrumentation that’s all on the same level and meanders along across its five-and-a-half minute runtime. It sounds pleasant enough and it’s all perfectly well-made, but there’s nothing grabbing here at all, and Voices From The Fuselage just seem to be trundling along while others are surpassing them by enormous amounts. Something more could come from this, but there’s not a great deal of evidence for that right now.
Words by Luke Nuttall