Fear Me December ‘Between Violence And Silence’ Album Review

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Many bands will tell you they’ve been on “a journey”. These days, it seems to be the stock inclusion on any artists bio and to be honest, makes absolutely no sense at all. But, regardless of any metaphorical ‘journey’ any band can conjure up, they will probably never match the one Fear Me December have undertaken. If only because FMD’s is about 7,000 miles! Forming a few short years ago in Argentina, it probably would have been quite easy for the then-trio to build a sizeable fanbase in South America with the occasional foray into the USA, or maybe a European tour. After all, the list of South American bands who have successfully carved out a career on these shores is incredibly short. Not to be deterred, the trio pitched up in Manchester, on the back of some early positive reviews in America for their debut EP ‘Who Cares?’ and set about building support with numerous gigs and festival slots. The hard work is finally starting to pay off as, the now-duo (vocalist & bassist Lintu Doll and guitarist Valentin Macagno, with original drummer Emiliano having returned to Argentina) have just released their first full-length album, ‘Between Violence And Silence’.

So was the journey worth it? On the basis of this album, absolutely. Sitting somewhere between alt-rock and nu-metal, this is a very polished effort. Whilst there isn’t too much original or ground-breaking across the 11 tracks, it also manages to bridge the gap between the two genres effortlessly and utilizes the strengths of both Lintu & Valentin – as evidenced by the stonking riffs on ‘Fake It’ and the vocal range of Lintu, from the almost-breathy on the borderline-grunge ‘Dear Love’ to the more traditional female-rock style of ‘The Mess’. I don’t know if FMD are looking for a full-time replacement drummer, but they could certainly do a lot worse than session-player Chris Inman, who excels across all 11 tracks but especially, for me, on ‘Remember December’ and ‘Fly, Flight, Dream’, helping to raise these from good but standard album tracks into something of utter beauty. A couple of other tracks stand out for different reasons – opener ‘Give Us Peace’ opens with a quasi-news report on global violence before a brutal guitar intro kicks the song, and album, off as it means to go on. As album introductions go it’s no NWA’s ‘The Explicit’ but for newcomers to the band, it’s a good scene-setter. Opening-single ‘When This Is Over’ brings to mind the classic UK heavy-metal scene of the late 80’s, with guitars, drums and vocals fighting to be heard over each other but merging into one well-oiled production. This is a song which demands repeated listens and will surely be the highlight of future live shows. The final stand-out song, for me, is album closer ‘City Lights’ because this is going to be very divisive amongst fans and casual listeners. It’s not that it’s not good, far from it. I like the lyrics and the breakdown, when it comes, is pretty good. But for the first 4 minutes the song and vocals bring to mind a Kelly Clarkson album-filler. If only FMD had just used the last couple of minutes…

Overall, ‘City Lights’ aside, this is a very accomplished debut album. There’s enough influences across the songs to have a wide-appeal, and there’s definitely some tracks which will sound amazing in a live setting. Certainly a band to keep an eye on…

‘Between Violence And Silence’ was released on August 26th and is available here or with merch from here

Follow Fear Me December on their website, Facebook & Twitter

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Ashestoangels – Dingwalls, London, 12th August 2016

AshestoangelsLike just about everything these days, there’s an easy way and a hard way to build a fanbase within the music industry. The easy way is to get signed up to a label and let their industrial PR machine dominate social media until you have more followers than you can count but that you never interact with. Ashestoangels are doing it the hard way – slogging their way up and down the country, headlining their own shows or in support slots (like tonight’s to Hawthorne Heights) or at festivals (this summer they debuted at Donington where “for 10 minutes, we were the only band playing. Anywhere!”), printing their own t-shirts, producing the merch, self-releasing albums, and until recently, booking their own tours. By any measure, that’s a ridiculous amount of work to undertake but it’s due to this ethic that they’ve built a solid, loyal following. And it’s clear to see, when talking to the band before their set, that they appreciate every single fan and are keen to repay that loyalty in any way they can. They’ve adopted the “New Grave” label given to their style of music but see it “more as a family or a movement and not just a genre” and refer to it as the ‘Horror Cult’. Bizarrely, someone actually started a petition to get New Grave banned. Thankfully, it only received 26 signatures! Meet & Greets are increasingly popular but whilst many bands will do it in the sanitised environs of the empty venue, Ashestoangels think outside the box to make it memorable. Prior to a recent Glasgow show, for example, the M&G occurred in a graveyard. Thankfully, lead singer Crilly (one of two Adams in the band) remembered his manners, as he “asked the dead for their permission. None complained”. As he says, “we like to offer something different, that other bands don’t do. So everyone who comes gets a T-shirt that no-one else can get on top of the acoustic show”. Straight away, this set a thought off in his head – “perhaps we should do a graveyard tour”. I’m not entirely sure he was joking…

But of course, the ability to make someone feel a part of the extended band would be pretty meaningless without the music to go with it. And it’s here they excel, blending elements from numerous styles and bands into a gloriously cohesive whole. Listen to their recent ‘How To Bleed’ album and it’s easy to hear why they are regularly compared to bands like My Chemical Romance. But experience the tracks in a live environment – and the majority of the songs tonight are from ‘How To Bleed’ – and you realise they’ve taken their craft to a whole new level. Much of this is to do with the way the songs are written – apparently there’s an allusion to “Freddie Prinze, Jr, somebody taking off their glasses and other ideas just percolating”. But there’s also a desire to challenge themselves – one track was written on the basis of only using 12 chords. What’s the next challenge? “A song with only 4 chords. Or with no conjoining words” says Josh. Admitting that “we don’t listen to any other music while we’re writing, so in effect, we become self-referential. We just make the music we like”. Inside the venue, it’s clear that those in attendance clearly like the music as well. Perhaps a little too much for one fan who took every opportunity to hoist Crilly off of the stage and into the often non-existent mosh-pit. Unfortunately, this quite often went wrong, as the fella didn’t seem to realise you needed more than one person to support a stage dive! But off-stage spills aside, the band perform magnificently. There’s no question Crilly is the focal point, as he jumps around the incredibly small space left on the stage in-between the other 5 members of the band but it’s most definitely not a one-man show. Josh brings a delightful, guttural metalcore-type vocal as well as being quite a formidable guitar player – matched by the other Adam of the band who manages to combine awesome riffs with the ability to play guitar in some rather unconventional body positions! Two tracks in the set (‘I Could Never Miss You’ and ‘The Ghost In The Machine’) gave a chance for Nikki (keys) and Chris (bass) to shine as they are much more stripped-back than some of the other tracks which allowed their respective instruments to come to the fore whilst at the other end of the scale, tracks like ‘Not In My Name’, being more alt-rock, allows Jim to show he could possibly be one of the best drummers on the circuit at the moment

As it was a support slot tonight, the set was all too short but the set-list covered the range of their prowess. Crilly is definitely able to hold the crowd’s attention, with just the right amount of interaction and even while being dropped by over-exuberant fans! But they’ve will certainly have gained yet more followers, and doing it the “hard way” must be so much more satisfying. These guys are definitely worth catching next time they head out on tour, especially if it’s one they’re headlining. Just don’t be too worried if they invite you to a graveyard…..

 

Keep up-to-date with Ashestoangels on their Facebook & Twitter pages or on their website

Calling Apollo – ‘The Great Depression: Act 1’ EP Review

Calling Apollo - TGDA1 Artwork

People in the music industry often use the phrase “Difficult Second Album” and, to be honest, it’s one I’ve genuinely never understood. Mainly because bands like Calling Apollo follow up a well-received debut (last year’s ‘Hunter | Gatherer’) with an absolute barn-stormer like ‘The Great Depression: Act 1’, released August 19th on Signal & The Noise Records, the band’s own label.

Taking elements from many genres but not staying within any particular one, this EP flows from anthem to melody to full-on rock to chill seamlessly and effortlessly. Much of that is down to lead singer Christian Neale and his ability to change his vocal tones as required and seems equally at home singing the almost post-hardcore songs as well as those nearer to the stripped-back, acoustic-esque end of the scale. A very rare feat indeed. But credit must also go to the rest of the band – Dan & Kevin on lead guitars, Luke on bass and drummer Zak who manage to raise 2nd track ‘Clone City’ from a song that could have been a MCR-copy into arguably one of the best of the songs on the EP. Although that honour could just as easily go to latest single ‘Obelisk’, which treads the very fine line between rock and metal and ultimately delivers nearly 6 minutes of utter aural pleasure. Dark, brooding guitars and a killer drum-line build throughout the beginning until a mid-song peak. This is anthemic rock as it should be, demanding repeated listening and is almost certainly going to become a live-crowd favourite. There’s also a relevant theme in the lyrics of not believing everything you hear -“We keep taking what we’re fed”- all delivered with a suitably aggressive, punk-rock-like vocal. Showcasing their versatility, ‘The Wars’ starts as a complete opposite of what has come before. But it’s a deceptive slow-burner, luring you in with melodies and emotional vocals building throughout the song – it’s basically the musical version of The Usual Suspects. Just when you think you’ve figured everything out and you know how it’s going to end, the twist comes and you go straight back to the beginning with a whole new understanding and appreciation of the genius involved. ‘Act 1: House Of Cards’ sees the band back on more familiar territory, being as it is a fast-paced, uptempo rock belter but with a great chilled-out ending which continues into the next, and final, track on the EP, ‘…And The High Plateau’. Although that stripped-back feel, with barely-there vocals, only lasts so long until a brutal guitar riff comes in and reminds you why these guys are one of the best up-and-coming alt-rock bands in the UK right now. I especially like the guitar effect of the ending, which closes the EP perfectly and leaves you eagerly awaiting ‘Act 2’. And if that’s anywhere near as good as this, it’ll be well worth the wait…

 

 

 

The Young Fables – ‘Two’ Album Review

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I can’t deny, I long for the good old days of country music. That era when a country song didn’t target the bigger-selling, more commercialised “pop” market. When a song featured a song vocal performance, a handful of instruments (including the ubiquitous steel guitar) and lyrics that told a story. A time before (as talented as they are) Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain et al who seemed to forego their country roots in search of mainstream success. A time when The Young Fables would release their album ‘Two’ and it would be talked about for weeks. For there’s no doubt, this will surely rank as one of country music’s best debut albums and a key reason for that is it’s total lack of trying too hard to appeal to all people. There’s no over-production or no multi-layering of numerous instruments or electronic wizardry. It’s country music as it should be –  Laurel Wright’s vocals are a delight to listen to, complemented perfectly by Wes on guitar. The songs flow effortlessly, both individually and across the album as a whole and just about every song tells a story. The themes are reassuringly familiar – unrequited love, cheating, looking back etc but they’re presented with a level of emotion not usually found in ones so young. Opener ‘Better Hand’ is a perfect example – lyrics that speak of losing a man to another woman but delivered with a tone that perfectly encapsulates that feeling of resignation. Proving Laurel & Wes can cope with a multitude of styles and tempos, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Completely’ are both stripped-back, at times almost acoustic and really grab your attention whilst ‘September’ manages to evoke the spirit of the Ladies of Country whilst still being modern and relevant. The album really comes into it’s own with the next few tracks – ‘The Road Home’ takes the “journey back home” theme to a whole new level which will surely resonate with every listener: “I come back to the old home place where I played as a child/Not cluttered by tall buildings or hurried by time”. Next up is single “Two”, which is a delightfully uptempo track which does have a pop undertone but it’s held together wonderfully by Wes on the steel guitar and is a good choice as the first video. As good as those songs are, to my mind, they don’t compare to ‘I Love Him Too’, the staple unrequited love song. This is the epitome of a Stop-Everything-And-Listen song. At first listen, it’s reminiscent of maybe a Tammy Wynette or Crystal Gayle song with their rich, melodic vocals. The guitars pack a punch whilst being barely-there and Wes provides warm back-up vocals throughout the chorus. Just beautiful…

With this album, there’ll no doubt be comparisons with Kacey Musgraves who has also taken country music forward by going back to it’s roots but that’s a little unfair on The Young Fables. ‘Two’ stands up extremely well on it’s own merits and, for me at least, sets the new benchmark for this genre. There’s no question we’ll be hearing a lot more of this duo in the years to come

Two is available now from iTunes. Follow The Young Fables on Facebook, Twitter or through their website

A World Away w/ 48 Hours, Forever Never & Acoda- The Craufurd Arms, 30th July 2016

It’s probably fair to say there are not many “great” bands that call Milton Keynes home. In fact, Wikipedia lists only 5. And 2 of them have split up! So, when a band like A World Away come along, you have to sit up and take notice. Formed just over a year ago, and 7 months on from their first-ever gig, these guys have a maturity on-stage that is seriously at odds with their seeming lack of experience – they’ve only had a handful of support slots (although granted, they were for Mallory Knox & Young Guns) and tonight is the release show for their debut EP, Wake Me Up but they take to stage like seasoned professionals. There’s a swagger and a confidence rarely seen in a band that are taking their first steps, lead singer Ollie has the crowd hanging onto every lyric, there’s some great riffs played by Jim, Tim & Rob and Pete keeps everything together with some great, tight drumming

If the pressure wasn’t on A World Away at the start of the night, it certainly was by the time they took to the stage. Each of the support acts raised the bar from the act before and openers 48 Hours set that pretty high, crossing the spectrum from metal/hard rock and pop-punk with a short but energetic set. Their use of guitar effects is exemplary, making songs like ‘Giving Up’ & ‘Liars’ extra layers without overpowering the vocals, shared between bassist Gary & guitarist Adam. At times, there was so much going on, it seemed impossible to believe there are only 3 people in the band. Highlight of the set was surely the final song, ‘Nothing Left’ which featured a mid-song bass solo which must rank as one of the best I’ve ever heard!

Next up were Essex’s Forever Never and I genuinely have no idea what these guys listen to just before heading into the studio! These guys literally cross genres that don’t even belong together. Somehow, they’ve managed to mix  elements of electropop with Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park nu-metal with annoyingly catchy hooks and melodies. It seriously shouldn’t work but somehow it does and bloody hell, it’s good. And talking of things that shouldn’t work, mid-set is quite possibly the best, but at the same time, weirdest cover version I’ve ever heard. Whichever band member said to the others that John Farnham’s 80’s classic ‘You’re The Voice’ needs a metal vibe is a certifiable genius. And it sounds absolutely immense in a dark and sweaty live venue…

Taking the music back to a more traditional alt-metal feel were final support ACODA. They’ve toured extensively, including most of the major festivals, and it shows. Their set is energetic, atmospheric and riff-heavy, although they’re just as adept with the “slower” side of metal, as proved with ‘Won’t Go Running’ from the ‘Truth Seeker’ album. Being a relatively local band, they were bound to have some fans in the audience, but they managed to also engage those who were unaware of them before tonight and if the venue wasn’t sweaty enough before their set, it sure as hell was by the time they finished!

And so, with 3 formidable sets preceding them, A World Away had to try and somehow match and exceed with their own. And exceed it they certainly did! Understandably, with such a short career their back catalogue is dependent on their EP, with 5 of those 7 tracks being played tonight. But already, the guys have seemingly cracked the age-old problem of making a song which sounds great on a CD sound even better in a live environment. Set-opener ‘Puppet’ grabs everyone’s attention straight away, which doesn’t waver through ‘Unaligned’ with it’s pop-punk style and ‘Stride By Stride’, which was apparently the first song they ever wrote. Not a bad beginning! Not to be outdone by Forever Never’s ‘You’re The Voice’ re-working, A World Away managed to somehow turn The Weekend’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ from a distinctly average song into a borderline acceptable one. Don’t get me wrong, turning it into a guitar-based song is a good move, it’s just that it’s an awful song to begin with and for me, was the only low-point of the set. There was a tribute to local musician Alex Todd-Weller who passed away a couple of years ago and is honoured at the venue, before the pace picked up with ‘The Choice’, a brilliant slice of alt-rock which got the crowd bouncing before set-closer and latest single ‘Wake Me Up’. An excellent set, complementing but also standing out from the support bands and a very assured debut headline gig. Big things definitely await A World Away….

We Are Carnivores – ‘Theodor’s A Don, Bro’ EP Review

Theodor's A Don, Bro ArtworkI’ll be brutally honest, some music reviews are easier to write than others. And some are just downright impossible. This one falls firmly into the latter. It’s not that the EP is bad – quite the opposite, in fact it’s bordering on brilliant. The band have masses of personality, which comes across in their music, and are clearly very good at what they do. It’s just that, I can’t really describe what it is they actually do! To say they’ve taken the mathcore genre and evolved it by going backwards is about the best I can do. And that just doesn’t explain it at all! By its very nature, mathcore/math-rock doesn’t make sense. And, to that end, this EP follows that trend. Starting with the title, ‘Theodor’s A Don, Bro’ – totally unexplainable. Then there’s the closing track ‘I’m Not An Alcoholic, I just Collect Bottles’ which features quite possibly the strangest track title ever and a mid-song Customer Service skit which borders on the bizarre. And across the 4 tracks, more electronic/synth/reverb/distortion wizardry than previously thought possible. It’s like the mutant offspring of the 1980’s New Romantic era and the Indie/Britpop of the late 90’s/early-2000’s walked into a studio moments after taking an overdose-inducing amount of psychotropic drugs and started making music. There’s elements of rock, metalcore, post-hardcore, punk, funk and goodness knows what else. This is the sort of music that your parents would say is “just noise”. Which, to be fair, on first listen is probably true. But stick with it and what emerges is pretty darn good. Yes, it’s disjointed (both individually and as a whole), most of the lyrics are indiscernible (and the ones that aren’t won’t win any Ivor Novello awards “Walk to the shop/For a leccy top-up” for example) and there’s more musical layers than you would think possible from a trio. But that’s exactly the point. It’s melodic with barely any melodies, the vocals are often all over the place yet fit perfectly, and the range of musical styles on ‘You Can’t Argue With Sharks’ (from pop-punk through to metalcore) really shouldn’t work but it does, and is quite possibly the best song on a seriously good EP. If math rock isn’t making a resurgence yet, it surely will after this EP hits the masses. Whatever you do, don’t just listen to it once. Just stick it on loop and revel in the (dis)organised chaos that’ll pump out of your speakers, knowing that whilst everyone else is listening to the mainstream, you’re listening to the future….

Theodor’s A Don, Bro is available now on iTunes, Spotify & Amazon

Follow We Are Carnivores on Facebook and Twitter and on their website

SaraBeth – ‘Full Speed Ahead’ EP review & Q&A

SaraBeth - Full Speed Ahead

Many artists have laid claim to the title “Hardest Worker in Music” but to be honest, it’d be hard to find anyone who compares to country music’s SaraBeth. If she’s not crisscrossing the US performing shows (over 50 already this year alone!) or the US National Anthem in baseball stadiums, she can be found crossing the Atlantic to the UK for festival dates, intimate acoustic sets or, in the next month, a full tour. On top of which, she hosts regular Stage It! streaming shows, and somehow, in between all of that, she manages to write or co-write some brilliantly original music, with heartfelt, uplifting lyrics which will resonate with her ever-increasing audience. 4 of those songs are featured on SaraBeth’s latest EP, “Full Speed Ahead”, which, along with an inspired cover-version to close the album, must surely elevate the Texas-born SaraBeth from the ‘one to watch’ category to the standard-bearer of modern country music

Whilst there are hints of the modern trend towards a country-pop crossover, the vocals, guitars and lyrics are most definitely in the mould of the great country singers. There’s a theme to each song which draws the listener in – hopes and struggles, following your dreams, the breakdown of a relationship – which, whilst not original within the country genre, are certainly well-written, with annoyingly-catchy choruses. And above it all, that   unmistakeable, delectable Texas drawl shines through

Opener ‘Someone Who Is’ is the ubiquitous nearly-at-the-end-of-a-relationship song. The instrumentals on this track are excellent, the lyrics are ‘sassy’ and empowering – “You know where you can put your goodbye kiss” – and despite it’s theme, is an upbeat and uptempo track. Much like the next song, ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’, which is definitely the most “country” song on the EP – all twanging guitars and sections of a cappella singing. It could so easily have been a cliche of a song but it’s been produced so well, that it actually sounds like an update of classic female country. Like a  Crystal Gayle for the iPhone generation. Next up is ‘Song About You’, a fun track and one to have a singalong to. I’ll be honest, it probably won’t win any awards for it’s lyrics (trying to write a song about a seemingly perfect guy) but what it does do is show SaraBeth’s versatility. It’s much more downtempo, and the vocals border on perfection! Which leads very neatly onto the last original song on the EP, ‘Windshield/Rearview’. Everything about this is genuine perfection – the lyrics (which seem to pretty much be her life getting to this point – “Where I serve up a steak and my demo tape/For all the people that are running the labels”) are excellent, the genre-cross between country, pop and rock, the overall upbeat feel to the song. Brilliant! This is the sort of song that sounds great on an album, but absolutely immense in a live venue. Final song is a cover of the Backstreet Boys classic ‘I Want It That Way’. I can’t deny, I’m a massive fan of this song and had some doubts how it would sound when tweaked to a country vibe. But, impossible as it should be, this version is actually an improvement on the original. Stripped back to almost acoustic and making the chorus a duet with Glen Mitchell is genius

Overall, this is a brilliant EP and will no doubt open SaraBeth up to a larger audience – evidenced already by the pre-sales taking ‘Full Speed Ahead’ to No.1 in the UK iTunes country charts and No.11 in the USA. She has definitely matured in her musicality since her previous releases and I for one am very much looking forward to the next stage of her career

Somehow, in between all the travel, shows and songwriting, SaraBeth managed to find the time to answer a few questions…

Congratulations on your new EP, which seems to come as an extension to your previous releases with “sassy” lyrics and themes of empowerment. Is this a conscious theme when you write a new song, or do the lyrics just come naturally? Where do you start when writing a song?

Songwriting is a really interesting process.  When I first moved to town, I was worried there was a right and wrong way.  The best thing about the creative process is there is no right way.  It’s like brainstorming to music.  Depending on who you’re writing with, what you (or your co-writers) are going through, and even how much sleep you’ve had you never know exactly where the song will go.  I enjoy writing “sassy” songs because they’re so much fun to perform in a live setting.  I try to look for the best in every situation, and I hope that comes through in my songwriting.   My new EP, Full Speed Ahead, is full of songs written about exaggerated truth. 

And talking of writing songs, you wrote “Girl Scout Cookie Monster” in under an hour in between a radio station interview. Is that the quickest song you’ve ever wrote and could you believe the reaction you got from the wider audience?

Girl Scout Cookie Monster is now officially the fastest song I’ve ever written.  Before that the record went to “I’m Sick of It”.  I absolutely love Girl Scout Cookies, so even though we had a time crunch, the song came fairly quickly on its own!  I was overwhelmed by the reaction the Facebook Live video received.  It’s had 400,000 views which is insane!  The best thing about this song has been all the amazing people I’ve met within the Girl Scouts Organization.  They’ve also been really kind and given me some Girl Scout Cookies!  Best form of payment I’ve ever received! 🙂

The final song on the EP is a great re-working of a Backstreet Boys classic. What made you choose this track? And will you be featuring it in your live performances?

On St. Patrick’s Day I was with some friends watching a friend’s cover bandseriously the best cover band I’ve ever heard!  They had some amazing versions of songs from all genres!  We were still searching for a 5th song for Full Speed Ahead, and they covered a few boy band songs.  When I left that night it hit me and Glen Mitchellare we crazy?  Let’s cover “I Want It That Way”. We’ve been working on a version to do out at our live shows.  Not sure when it’ll hit the set.  

You’re in the middle of shuttling back and forth to the UK, performing a variety of shows – acoustic, a festival appearance, and a tour to come next month, featuring your full band. Which is your favourite type of show to play and are UK audiences different to American ones?

Different venues/settings call for different styles of performance, and I enjoy all of them.  Any show where people leave and have been moved – whether thats to sing along, dance, or even cry – and enjoyed themselves, that’s my favorite kind of show! I’m incredibly excited to bring the band to the UK.  This will be their first time to the UK, and I can’t wait to experience the trip with them!  It’s always exciting to share your favorite things about different cities and countries with your friends.

And on a tour theme, you’ve already performed a large number of shows this year, in addition to your regular Stage It streams and National Anthem performances. How do you ever find the time to write new music!? 

Well, I work 7 days a week.  Sometimes in the middle of the night.  If inspiration strikes, that’s when I write songs.  My notebooks (both physical and virtual) are filled with random thoughts. If I hear someone say something interesting in a movie or sitting behind me on a plane, I write it down.  As a songwriter, you’re always listening and looking for things that would be great in a song.  

Since the EP has been available for pre-order, you’ve consistently been in the Top 5 of the Pre-order charts on iTunes – Are you hopeful of a high charting position next week EP is fully released? And do you check the charts to see the calibre of artist you’re outselling!?

July 12 was a crazy day for me!  We hit the #1 Country Album spot in the UK and debuted at #11 in on the US County Chart.  As an independent artist, this means more than you know.  I say it all the time, but we’re a team!  I can write songs all day long, but it’s the fans that allow me to do what I do.  Thank you doesn’t begin to express my gratitude.  

Finally, you’ve partnered with the charity Food For The Hungry through the Live Music Cares network. Can you tell us a little about this and how people can get involved, or check out the amazing work they do?

Food for the Hungry is an amazing organization that helps to build sustainable communities in impoverished areas throughout the world.  I sponsor a child named Jonathan from Nicaragua.  In January I was able to travel to Nicaragua and meet Jonathan and his family/community.  That’s one thing that sets Food for the Hungry apart from other organizations – you can actually set up a trip to visit the child you sponsor! If anyone has it on their heart to get involved, you can go to my website SaraBethMusic.com and click on the FH (Food for the Hungry) button.  I also have child sponsorship packets at all my shows.  I will have packets at the UK shows as well!  

SaraBeth is touring the UK throughout August, details can be found on her website, Facebook & Twitter. ‘Full Speed Ahead’ is released onto iTunes on July 12th

Tigress, O2 Academy2, London 8th June

It’s extremely unusual for a band to take a look at themselves and say that it isn’t working, or that the music doesn’t reflect the direction they want to go in and then totally re-invent themselves with a new name and musical style but with the same personnel. Especially when, in their previous incarnation, they enjoyed moderate success including releasing a couple of albums and some big festival appearances. But change Tigress have done, moving from a pop-punk sound as The Hype Theory to an altogether alt-rock vibe and are now surely about to hit the heights that they so richly deserve

Tonight, Tigress are playing the opening show of their debut headline tour to a London audience that lead vocalist Katy Jackson admits are tough to please. Especially as the band accept they will have lost some fans with their new direction and are almost having to start again. But they needn’t have worried as there’s a good crowd inside the venue, considering it is a Wednesday evening. Not sold-out by any means but packed enough to ensure a suitably sweaty atmosphere. The music tonight is full on alt-rock, at times bludgeoning the crowd with heavy guitar riffs but through it all, Katy’s vocals draw the crowd in, keeping all the room’s attention fully on the stage. It’s clear to see why she is an accomplished vocal coach with her students appearing on both The Voice and The X Factor. All the tracks from the Human EP are played tonight, with each getting an ever more enthusiastic response. At the front of the stage, Katy has a presence that belies her years, Sean & Tom are exceptional guitarists and very ably accompanied by Jack on bass. Josh’s drumming holds everything together, none more so than on second song ‘Miracle’. The band have put together a brilliant setlist for this tour, an inspired mix between the “slower” songs off the EP and the full-on rock-out tunes. Towards the end of their all-too-short set, the band treat the, by now pretty sweaty audience, to the new song ‘Shockwave’ which hasn’t been heard outside of the studio until now. And if this song is indicative of their new musical direction, the future for them is incredibly bright! New single ‘Power Lines’ also gets an airing and is one of those rare breed of songs that sound even better live with a dose of attitude. Brilliant!

It’s easy to compare new(ish) bands with other, more established musicians and it seems just about every female-fronted rock band is compared with Paramore. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being likened to Hayley et al, after all, they’re pioneers of the genre and indeed, Katy welcomes such comparisons but for me, on songs like ‘Future’ and set-closer ‘Alive’, they sound like a more polished Tonight Alive or Against The Current. Just don’t compare Katy to Avril Lavigne. Trust me, she doesn’t like that comparison…..!

Daydream Frenzy – ‘Ocean Air’ EP Review

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Many musicians aspire to be the “Next Big Thing” from their region. But when your region has produced two of the most successful artists Britain has ever produced, you know you have to be pretty special to emulate them. And, for those outside Aberdeen who haven’t heard of Daydream Frenzy, these guys are pretty special. Following on from their debut album release last year, this 5-track EP must surely bring the guys to the attention of the rest of the nation. Both lyrically and musically, the 3 new tracks on ‘Ocean Air’, are sublime. The other 2 tracks are re-workings which offer alternative takes on the originals and are worthy inclusions on the EP. Lead singer Donald is quoted as saying the band “wanted to make something a bit different” and that this is “the most diverse music we have ever made”. He’s right on both counts….

Opening with new single ‘Shout’, there’s a great low-key beginning, just Donald’s vocal and a haunting minimal guitar accompaniment before the drums very gradually kick in before it raises the tempo and becomes a great rock song about a minute in. Very reminiscent of Coldplay, where the song veers between low-key, almost acoustic, verses and a banging chorus with a fist-pumping uptempo ending. Not far off from being the perfect rock song. Next up, ‘On My Own’ has a similar low-key/uptempo mix but in a more traditional slow-start, fast-ending way. The first half reminded me of bands like Fountains Of Wayne or perhaps Bowling For Soup, where the lyrics are the focal point to begin with but then the guitars and drums take centre stage for the ending. It’s never going to start a mosh pit but it will hold a live audience’s attention. Now, if you want a mosh pit starting, you head for track 3 – ‘Good Morning’. A good old-fashioned, Pop-Punk ,anthemic blast. Think Simple Plan, Sum 41, Blink-182 and you’re probably about there. Everything about this song is awesome – the gritty, earthy vocals, drums that could make eardrums bleed and a brilliant guitar/drum combo in the middle.  Oh, and a great “F-you” attitude throughout…”I’m sick of the big man/telling me we’re doing wrong”. The EP ends with the 2 re-worked tracks, the first being an acoustic version of ‘Shout’. Now, I’m generally not a fan of acoustic versions of songs – it’s too easy to compare them with the original. But, this is an amazing exception as it almost sounds like a completely different song. This showcases just how versatile Donald’s voice is, and how it can perfectly encompass numerous styles and tempos. Absolutely beautiful. Final track is the Fonik Remix of ‘Pride & Wonder’ from their previous album of the same name. Similar in style to the original, this veers from alt-rock to almost electro-pop. This is genuinely brave as it could so easily have sounded like a One Direction cast-off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as good as the original, there are sections that sound over-produced with too many layers that sound confusing. It just about works – but that’s mainly due, again, to the vocals and the strength of the original version. It may open the band to a new market or convince new fans to check out the debut album and for that alone, it’s an experiment worth undertaking but it certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the 4 tracks before it, if only because they are just so darn good!

‘Ocean Air’ is available now from here. Follow Daydream Frenzy on Facebook and Twitter

Steve Young – ‘Troubadour’ Album Review

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“Been there, done that” is an oft-overused phrase these days. But it pretty adequately describes Steve Young, a rising star in the UK country music scene. To be fair, if he’d “bought the T-shirt” as well, he’d have a wardrobe full by now – session guitarist, touring guitarist (including for Lionel Richie, no less), co-writer and now, singer-songwriter in his own right. His live appearances cover the spectrum from Country Music festivals, World Music festivals, the Edinburgh Fringe, rising stars showcases, acoustic shows and support slots for blues singers, for country singers and even for West End Musical singers  If his musical history is varied, his musical style is even more so. The fact that Steve is considered to be a Country artist is actually doing him a disservice. His music ranges from acoustic through pop, a touch of rock, folk and blues (quite often all in the same song!) with the country/Americana all the while in the background. And that’s not even mentioning his lyrics. There’s barely a song on ‘Troubadour’ that doesn’t have a heartfelt, meaningful lyric that will resonate with the listener. To be honest, there’s barely a verse on the album that doesn’t have a meaningful lyric!

Steve sets the bar high with opener ‘Out Of Our Minds’ with a great introduction which combines guitar and harmonica to brilliant effect, before diving headfirst into a great country/rock-type harmony which is very reminiscent of the Eagles. The vocals are exceptional, the guitars exquisite and it’s all held together perfectly by the minimal drums. Definitely one of the strongest tracks on the albums. Next up is ‘In My Dreams’ which is a more pop-type song. It has a furiously infectious chorus which stays in the head long after the song has finished! Recent single ‘Back To Mine’ is, for me, the highlight of the album. It’s well-crafted, has a storyline that is almost a prerequisite of the great country songs and the combination of lyrics and Steve’s vocals just draw you in. I genuinely can’t find a weak point within this song – it covers all the genres amazingly well. It shouldn’t work but it does!

It’s easy for some artists to somewhat over-produce a song, to add too many layers to it and then lose the listener in the confusing result. Thankfully, Steve has resisted any temptation to do that on ‘Nurture’. Stripped back with beautiful contrasting backing vocals and again, the lyrics are just amazing. Think of an updated Glen Campbell. The next couple of tracks sees Steve’s wonderful voice take centre stage within 2 different styles, with ‘Old Friend’ set within a folk/blues-type style, and ‘Life Changes In A Heartbeat’ in a completely acoustic track. Both are good individually, but work even better when followed by the upbeat ‘Home For The Summer’ which goes goes to a more country/pop feel, and ‘Truth In Life’ which is unashamedly country. A sublime microcosm of Steve’s range and ability. For an artist to be so versatile is a very rare feat indeed. A couple of great tracks round off the album, again covering a range of styles. ‘Norwegian Girl’ is a great story-telling song, probably the most ‘folk’ song on the album and ‘Sweet Mary’ ticks the ‘alt-country’ box to great effect.

All in all, a very accomplished debut album and one that’s worth repeated listens. There’s clearly a wide range of influences and I think Steve does a fine job of modernising some of the great singer-songwriters, whilst still keeping his own sound.  Unusually, there are very few negatives about this album, the production is solid throughout, the melodies and harmonies work very well together and the vocals (and lyrics), as mentioned previously, are exceptional. Certainly an artist to keep an eye on for the future

Follow Steve on Facebook, Twitter & his website