Wings Of Desire – Amun-Ra EP Review

WMD Recordings – 2021

Wings Of Desire the indie-pop duo of James Taylor and Chloe Little have returned with their second EP of the year. Following on from their End Of An Age EP that focused on observing the world, Amun-Ra takes a look inwards and examines life and the expectations that comes with it. The duo formed over a mutual love of Krautrock, Berlin-era Bowie and 60’s counter-culture and you can feel aspects of each of these sewn in throughout this new EP.

Opener “Choose A Life” combines soaring soundscapes and sailing guitars to soundtrack the band’s satirical spoken word life-goal checklist. Imagine Arcade Fire wrote the soundtrack to Trainspotting with Wolf Alice on production duties. It’s one of those feel-good, contemplation tracks, perfect for watching the world pass by on the bus to work as you contemplate whether the commute is really worth it. You can lose yourself in the world that they create as they examine their place in the real one. There’s a certain magic they tap into on this track that they never quite reach on the rest of the EP.

“Better Late Then Never” rings with the same contemplative energy but only captures half of the excitement of its predecessor, almost trying to live off its legacy. They try to invoke the anthemic chorus aesthetics of Bowie’s Heroes, but only quite pull of being the trusty sidekicks. The chorus “Oohs” and defiant claims of “We’re just getting older” feel like you’re reading an inspirational post your aunt has shared on Facebook. The sentiments nice but the execution never really reaches the heights it could.

There is a comeback however on “Outtamamind” as they use allow the chorus’ anthemic nature to shine through and the power-rock guitars to create a motion to stomp your feet to. Their assessment on true timelines continue as they question whether mysteries like the Mandela affect and parallel universes really exist and how many lives we’ve live within them. The open-ended nature of these ponderings allows the band to place the question to everyone else; well what do you make of it?

What Wings Of Desire showcase on this EP is a pallet of sounds that becomes tried and true. Closer “Forgive And Forget” pulls these sounds together for one last power ballad outcry. It’s emotive and captivating and could easily soundtrack any indie-movie’s coming of age moment. But as with many movie moments they are only brief, needing only a snippet of a track and this track seems to provide this snippet in abundance. Its chorus reaching out for as long as it can, never seeming to want to let go. You are drawn in by the emotive moments of this EP and they stick around for as long as possible, occasionally bordering on the clingy.

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Al Matcott – You Can Be anyone EP Review

Skip Hero Records – 2021

Al Matcott, one of Australia’s rising blues-grunge artists has emerged with his debut EP You Can Be Anyone, a collection of sentiments and stories form Matcott’s world that encompass elements of Americana, blues rock and folk. Formally a drummer and guitarist/ singer in a number of bands in the Australian DIY scene, Matcott has honed in his songwriting narrative to offer up the first slice of what he’s all about.

The most immediate thing you realise upon listening to this EP is that this is only a flavour of what Matcott is capable of, but you’re given a big enough portion to be able to digest Matcott’s shining personality and love of guitar. Jerking into action with opener “The Truthseeker” Matcott displays his form of songwriting in glorious form. With its stop start motion drive it feels as though Matcott is clicking in the gears, about to set the full bluesy drive into full motion. Recorded in his mothers house in Castlemaine, Victoria you can hear the rawness of Matcott’s sound in every aspect, from the slap-back vocals to the crusty guitars. It sounds almost live, and the immediate energy of Matcott’s performance is present in every moment. With the track gradually climaxing into a frenzy of melodies and blues riffs Matcott feels like he’s in full bloom, every aspect that the song has been leading up to resonating loud.

Both “The Truthseeker” and “Mediocre” stretching over the 5 and a half minute mark and beyond and it becomes apparent that Matcott would rather feed in slow elements of his sound when and if needed. Like a well-grafted novel, he’s in no rush to deliver it’s final climactic showdown, rather they have to be earned. On the latter there’s a subtle layer of disdain wrapped all over the track, from it’s shifting tonal balance at almost every turn as Matcott asks “You could be anyone / Why would you choose to be / Such a mediocre person”. Whether it’s a battle of self belief or questioning of another, Matcotts clever lyricism and storytelling finesse shines through above the rest.

The more poignant second half of the EP has Matcott evoking the likes of indie-blues/ folk powerhouse Kurt Vile on “Justine”.  His vocal style may resemble that of Vile’s B’lieve I’m Going Down days, but there’s also something more to Matcott’s sound that you can’t escape from. It’s as though he’s telling you a tale round a campfire, backed by a swathe of grunge filled and almost euphoric instrumentation. Pounding beat and rolling riffs aplenty, this track is sure to appear on any American-outlaw TV show soundtrack. And on “Friends Of Us All” Matcott brings out his inner Springsteen, as he crushes lead melodies one after another and details the turmoil of a friend in need.

What this EP details about Matcott is indeed that he can be anyone. Whether he’s playing the role of the outlaw or the loveable rogue, he captures the spirit of Americana-blues and indie rock at its core.

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Twisted Hearts Records – 2021

Haifa-born, London-raised producer Subculture aka Edan Feldman-Vazan returns with the follow up to 2019’s debut album I Dream Of Everything. Inspired by the turmoil of lockdown ACiiiD DRIPPED FLYING BUTT€R GUNS EP sought to turn his production talents to create a portrait of escapism from the real world. Coming in the form of the ACiiiD DRIPPED FLYING BUTT€R GUNS EP that plays like a mellowed out psychedelic burst of subtle despair amongst beauty.

Opening with the spacey and psychedelic tinged “Tornados”, woozy beats and lo-fi guitars aplenty, Subculture creates the type of soundscapes that are best appreciated late at night on the train home. As Hak Baker’s vocals crash in, the song transitions to invoke that sense of blissful melancholy that can be found with the likes of Gorillaz Plastic Beach. It feels like a wash of nostalgia thrown over you, the voices of the past circling around your head.

The pace is quickly increased on the title track however as the acid tab kicks in. Through seething horns and highly filtered guitars Subculture displays his dexterity in sound manipulation. There may not be as much depth of emotion as the rest of the EP, but it acts as a place-marker for the way Subculture crafts moods into sounds. To speak as the kids do, it’s certainly a vibe.

And to complete the full cycle of this trip, third track “Saving Grace” feels like the comedown after the wild ride. Lo-fi distorted textures and pianos create the kind of a melancholia that can be found starting out the window on a sunny summers eve after an afternoon spent with friends. It’s that perfect blend of sadness after joy that Subculture captures. As Edwin Arzu’s laidback verses of longing for someone roll along you can’t help but feel nostalgic for a love that you never had.

This EP stands as a dexterous journey through the mind of Subculture and the soundscapes that he inhabits. Crafting distorted worlds of his own inspired by the distorted world around him.

The Early Mornings – Unnecessary Creation EP Review

Self Released – 2021

The latest and greatest act to emerge out of Manchester’s ever fruitful DIY scene comes in the form of 3-piece The Early Mornings. Consisting of Annie Leader on guitar and vocals, Danny Shannon on bass and Rhys Davies on drums, the group are emerging at the renaissance of punk. The summit of the jagged guitar line. Recorded mostly in one day the band sought to capture the spirit of the sporadic nature of a live setting.

Through Leader’s thick Northern accent and occasional dead-pan delivery the group have distinction come naturally to them. Their sound draws influence from the likes of The Breeders through their angular guitar lines and popping beats. And on “Departure From Habit” they evoke the early melancholic raw sounding days of Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit… album through their sharp and sheer guitar lines and downbeat vocal deliveries. The band don’t just pay homage to this icons of indie, but turn this sound into something uniquely raw and fresh at the same time.

The name of the EP comes from a poem written by Davies “I punctuate my days with Unnecessary Creation”, referencing art and general everyday nothing and the lack of necessity that humans fill their time with. And immediately after the introductory “Legal Length” we are thrown into the bleakness of the every day with Leader singing “Perfect weather / to get sacked / Days spent seeing how long you let the match” on “Days Spent”. Soundtracked by a cacophony of searing guitars and off-kilter beats, the band seek to bring excitement to the mundane. They perfectly capture the come-down of losing sight to hope as the burst of energy that opened the track soon dies out into slowly wandering guitar lines and melancholic bass lines.

The juxtaposition of bright chords and dysphoric lyrics continue on “Not Content” delivering one of the bands most summery sounding sounds, whilst simultaneously being one of the most downbeat lyrically. “Where are you? / I want you” repeats Leader on the chorus as she wallows in lost love. And closing the EP with the swaying of “Blank Sky” the band distill their sound to its core. Crashing guitars, an infatuating chorus and a whirlwind of movements that’ll leave you wanting to head-bang and groove along all at the same time.

The band may be still be in their early days but the sound they capture on this EP is one of absolute conviction. They’ve emerged at the perfect moment, distilling the bleakness of the last year of everyone’s mundanity whilst offering a sharp slice of excitement that everyone is so desperately clinging onto.

JayWood – Some Days EP Review

Captured Tracks – 2021

Coming as a debut in two senses, with this being Jeremy Haywood-Smith’s first major label release under Captured Tracks. And also being initially the first project that Haywood-Smith wrote and recorded, back in 2015. In our interview with him he said that due to the uncertainty of releasing new music at the moment he wanted to go back and revisit this project to bring it up to date with the current JayWood sound. And that is exactly what this EP stands as. It simultaneously brings JayWood’s early roots of bedroom pop and lo-fi recordings to a new refined and defined sound and showcases what’s next for this upcoming

The most major update is title track “Some Days” that now bolsters a super slick groove, undying beat and meticulously cool guitar lines. As each movement rolls past on this song you’re left in awe just how much magic is being layered on through the swirling soundscapes, it’s easy to get lost in the mystifying world that JayWood creates. Over a river of synthesisers and funk-infused bass lines Haywood-Smith looks on in hope for those better days, “I swear i’m not broken, I’m just a little bit lost, With a little guidance i’ll find the cause” he declares. It’s this juxtaposition of upbeat rhythm and tender lyrics that just adds another layer of brilliance to this sound. The original version of this track also gets added almost as a bonus at the end of the EP and its inspiring to see just how far Haywood-Smith has come from those raw early days. The tenderness of this is almost mirrored in “Dreams” as Haywood-Smith strips back the sound to incorporate only swaying guitars and slow plucked guitars. Paired with Haywood-Smith’s charming melodies, this track takes you into the clouds and guides you along the path of trying to finding hope.

Haywood-Smith’s psychedelia inspirations of UMO and Tame Impala come out in the track “Creep” through phaser smothered guitar lines and funk infused beats. There’s an underlying unease to this track that breaks out in short bursts of guitar riffs and synthesiser swirls but is carried by Haywood-Smith’s naturally cool vocal styles. The funk and jazz sound that Haywood-Smith is incorporating in this newfound sound makes a final appearance on “What You Do To Me”. It’s breezy, easy to listen to and will have you bopping your head along to its infatuating groove. Through subtle harmonies and a glorious ending breakdown Haywood-Smith finishes the EP as it started, impassioned and full of bravado. Keen ears will also hear a nod to a certain famous guitar solo by another fellow Canadian indie rocker.

The JayWood project is one that has continued to evolve from the very early lo-fi days, to his bedroom-pop and radio station inspired debut album Time. And now with this project Haywood-Smith has brought everything up to speed, building himself a diving board for both listeners to dive into his captivating world and himself to swim out into the ocean of sounds that are waiting for him to mould together.

Do Nothing – Glueland EP Review

Exact Truth – 2021

Nottingham based post-punk outfit Do Nothing return with the follow up to 2020’s Zero Dollar Bill EP, a release that was laden with abstract lyrics thanks to front-man Chris Bailey’s obscure musings. The new EP takes its name from two ideas, the first being the fact that glue used to be largely produced using horse bones, a horrifying thought on its own. And the other being a synonym for limbo land, somewhere we all seem to be stuck in at the moment. Recorded in Bristol with producer Ali Chant, and in Cardiff with Tom Rees (Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) last summer, the band took to recording each members part separately rather than the live feel of their debut, allowing for more experimentation in production.

Opening with the dance bass driven title track “Glueland” the band immediately sets a new marker for their sound. With everything in this track feeling slightly more succinct than their previous outings. The drums are tight and driving, the guitar glistens and glides through various funk infused moments and the vocal lines and harmonic rises sway through highly intoxicating melodies. It’s a great progression on the bands sound, whilst still keeping the gritty and almost anthemic sound of previous releases towards the latter half. This tightness is then continued onto the Radiohead worship song “Uber Alles”, through the eerie minor chords and almost math rock styled bass line it gives a new alternative direction to the bands sound. Each melody of guitar, bass and vocals all flowing carelessly on top of each other to create a river of encapsulating sounds. It sounds almost like Arctic Monkeys would sound like if they were interesting.

Bailey’s carefully plucked, not easily understood, yet wonderfully enticing ruminations make a standout return. On “Rolex” he sings of “meeting the Marloboro man” recalling that “He said “Here’s a clue for ya, Jack”, Stuck a finger in my eye”. And on “Glueland” he refers to himself as “Going round in circles like a little baby eel, In a glass of water, all the way to Glueland“. These abstract lyrics help to drive the strange narrative of this EP along and serve as impressionistic views into the workings of his mind. You can get the general gist of what he’s singing about, but it’s best to not look too deep, only he truly understand it as he says.

Unfortunately with all the greatness the first two tracks brought, the last two seem to be trying to live off their legacy too much. Although the riff on “Knives” is catchy enough, it feels as though the band seems a bit tired. Bailey’s vocals are buried in the mix and the bass lines and drum beats that drove the first half of the EP with their intoxicating groove seem to have just run out of fuel and are operating on free trial mode. Then on “Great White Way” the song begins with an atmospheric and swirling soundscape, to slowly add different layers of drums and guitar lines. But over its near 5 minute run time, the song doesn’t offer that much progression to warrant the full length, instead often getting lost in loose jams and understated instrumentals. They may have been trying to lean into a more dreamier side of their sound, but this came at the cost of losing the experimental flair they evoked in the first 3 tracks.

Being only their second EP the band still has plenty of time to flesh out what they truly want their sound to be. Whether they lean towards this more structured and planned out sound of this EP, or infuse it with the raw sound of their debut, only time will tell. One things for sure, we’ll be looking forward to see wherever the band takes us next.

The Horrors – Lout EP Review

Wolf Tone Records – 2021

Heavy and harsh is the sound of The Horrors newest EP Lout. Following on from 2017’s V, an album that blended the emo-rock aspects of the bands sound with a synthesised drive. They return with an EP that is full of abrasive, distorted and beat driven tracks that returns to the heavier roots of their 2007 debut album Strange House.

Title track “Lout”, which is a word used to describe brutalist men, bursts into action with its heavy syncopated drum beat and industrial metal guitar lines. As lead singer Faris Badwan borders on the lines of screamo and the bands classic emo rock, you can hear the true ferocity that the band have tapped into. The soundscape is alive, continuously grinding and overall just simply exciting to listen to.

Moving into “Org” with sounds that were found on the likes of Poppy’s I Disagree, the band go even more left-field incorporating their synthesised sound into a new blistering form. The glitchy vocals and beats are pounding and it feels like you’re at an underground rave, roof shaking all whilst the guy on stage sees how many effects he can throw onto a sound. There’s even some 100 gecs inspired movements during the second with the off-key switch up. It’s both disturbing and emphatic at the same time.

And on “Whiplash” the band combines elements of both previous tracks to create a harsh and unforgiving goth metal banger. This newfound sound from the band both matches the melodic and stylistic feelings from previous workings, whilst simultaneously pushing the boundaries of how far the heaviness of their sound can go. Upon the announcement of this EP the band said that this would be an insight into the direction of their upcoming album. If it’s anything similar to the quality of this EP then it could well be some the bands most exhilarating work of recent times.