Black Country , New Road – Ants From Up There Album Review

Ninja Tune – 2022

Black Country, New Road offer up a stunning sophomore album in the form of Ants From Up There, which comes in the wake of lead singer Isaac Wood announcing his departure from the band. Whilst the future of the band is unclear, Wood has signed off from the band with some of his greatest vocal and lyrical performances to date, ensuring that his presence will never be forgotten.

After their second single “Sunglasses”, released back in 2019, a whirlwind of post-rock inspired guitar sections blended with spoken-word post punk witticism that explodes in a frenzy of blaring saxophones, the band were on everyone’s radar. Known for their notoriously good live shows, the band took to the studio to record Mercury Prize nominated For The First Time, released 5th February 2021. Now, almost exactly a year later, the band have to released Ants From Up There on 4th February 2022.

Album two feels like the natural progression for a band like Black Country, New Road to take. They have refined their sound, incorporating more texture and emotion than their previous effort, yet still retaining their distinctiveness, which can be heard in the harmonies of the strings which compliment the post-rock influenced guitars. With the success of their debut, the band have not hesitated to get stuck into making something that they feel is more cohesive, an album that saxophonist Lewis Evans asserts every member loves “every single moment,” containing “a bit more of a musical through-line,” making it “feel more like an album.”

Just like For The First Time, Black Country, New Road begin the album with a short instrumental piece, entitled “Intro”. The saxophone-led piece perfectly introduces the album’s ability to blend snappy instrumentation alongside a distinct tenderness that permeates throughout. The album then moves into a similarly peppy and upbeat “Chaos Space Marine”, a departure from BC, NR’s usual sound, yet Wood describes the creative process of the track as “a really fast, whimsical and silly approach – like throwing all the shit at the wall and just letting everything stick.” Although certainly not to the taste of all existing fans due to the track’s overly anthemic chorus and lively piano, the track demonstrates the band’s ability to not take themselves too seriously. However, the song is arguably the weakest on the album, and would potentially sound a lot more cohesive without it. A fun track on its own, amongst the album’s beautifully tender tracks and lyrical themes, “Chaos Space Marine” is lacking the emotionally powerful quality that every other track possesses.

“Concorde”, the album’s third track, and the second single to be released in anticipation for the album, is a gorgeous slow building track that transcends into an incredible explosion of saxophones and driving guitars. Lyrically, Wood explores humour with direct tenderness, moving from the comic yet painful “don’t tell me your hungry / cause, darling, I’m starving myself / And I heard your on Atkins as well,” to “I was made to love to you / can’t you tell?” in the space of a few seconds. It becomes prominent that failing relationships are a central theme on the album, which continues in “Bread Song”, a minimalistic soundscape driven by mellow guitars and keys to accompany the nervous strain in Wood’s voice. The track proves to be one of the band’s most attentive and delicate to date, with a standout performance from every member.

The album picks up some momentum with “Good Will Hunting”, which features caustic drums that pierce through the track alongside the repetitive keys, before building into a loud intensity matched by Wood’s vocals. In line with the band’s earlier tracks that reference musical icons from Kanye West to Richard Hell, Wood sings “she had Billie Eilish style,” which is repeatedly referred to throughout the album. However, it doesn’t pack the same humorous punch as “Leave Kanye out of this!” from ‘Sunglasses,’ instead coming of slightly rigid and cringy, undermining the far superior quality of Wood’s writing that is evident on the rest of the album.

The following track ‘Haldern” redeems the album from potentially sagging from the weight of “Chaos Space Marine” and “Good Will Hunting”. The track was originally improvised at Haldern Pop Festival in Germany and showcases the band’s immeasurable talent at working harmoniously together to create a song without much prior thought. Wood stated that “every now and then in the middle of a gig we’ll do some improvisation because it can be really fun. When we did it this time, we basically wrote a whole song, which is the first time we’ve ever done that.” Keys player May Kershaw shines on the track, bringing the rest of the instruments together to create a melancholically beautiful sound, which becomes punctuated by the crashing drums of Charlie Wayne. Wood’s writing truly shows its strengths here, opening the track by singing, “Ignore the hole I’ve dug again/ it’s only for the evening.”

A standout moment of the album is “Mark’s Theme”, a tribute to Evan’s late uncle Mark, who died a day before the release of For The First Time. The short piece is a phenomenal demonstration of the band’s classical training, a hauntingly beautiful and sentimental track that is unforgettable. You can only imagine that witnessing a performance of the track live would leave everyone stunned and transfixed by the mournful strings and saxophone that are some of the band’s finest instrumental work.

As the album reaches its final few tracks, “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” perfectly captures what the band seem to have been alluding to in interviews – that they are “trying to make [their] music really accessible.” The song balances a crowd-friendly chorus with gentle strings and nostalgic backing vocals that chime in near the end of the song, feeling like the musical equivalent of leaving the pub, buzzing off the excitement of catching up with old friends. This “accessibility” is not so evident on “Snowglobes”, a divisive track due to its intense and interfering drum solo that dominates the latter part of the track. However, the drums only elevate the track to greater heights, adding a crushingly hard impact to the song which is mainly intricate strings, sax, and guitars until this point. The drums roll like thunder behind Wood’s heart-breaking delivery, repeating the lines “God of weather, Henry knows/ Snowglobes don’t shake on their own,” with a raw intensity. Violins carry the track to even greater emotional depths, making it one of the album’s strongest tracks.

Finally, the album draws to a close with “Basketball Shoes”, almost thirteen minutes in length, and definitely the band’smagnum opus. If this is the last song we hear from Wood as a part of Black Country, New Road, he has left on an extraordinary high note. The song traverses differing terrains, parts explosive, parts euphoric, parts so incredibly emotional that you may wonder if they could ever top such a track. Wood states that the song is “the whole basis and blueprint for the album,” which is no surprise due to the indelible impact it leaves on all that hear it. The song has been a live fan-favourite for a while, so its official release comes with much anticipation. Divided into three parts, the song scratches every musical itch – erratic strings, immaculate post-rock guitar tones, and an astounding nostalgia-tinged emotional delivery from Wood, who screams the final verse in one of his most memorable vocal performances yet.

Black Country, New Road prove themselves to be one of the greatest British bands to have emerged over the past decade, constantly evolving and adapting with each track, delivering sheer amounts of emotion with every single string and guitar chord. Many of the band’s finest works are to be found on Ants From Up There. Bassist Tyler Hyde asserts that “It was such a pleasure to make. I’ve kind of accepted that this might be the best thing that I’m ever part of for the rest of my life,”and this couldn’t be more evident in these ten tracks.


Mumble Tide share new single “Noodle”

Mumble Tide have shared “Noodle“, the last single from their upcoming mini-album Everything Ugly, set to be released on December 3rd via Nothing Fancy. Pre-order here. The new single follows on from “Sucker“, “Breakfast” and “On My Deathbed“, all released earlier in the year and will feature on the upcoming mini-album.

The band take no time in erupting into a chugging motion on “Noodle”. The intense driving beat and staccato style instrumentation propel keep the track’s drive feel like an unrelenting wave of emotion throughout. Born from a place of insecurities, lyrically this track focuses on the feeling of not being enough. “All my sorry’s are falling back in through the cracks and I cant stop going around my skull, my squidgy squidgy brain”, sings lead singer Gina as she become stuck in the pool of her own self-doubt. There’s a fluidity to her singing that feels as though you’ve been dropped into her head, each new lyrical line the next thought that passes through her synapses. Mumble Tide have conquered the sad-ballad, now they prove that the groove-filled, chaos inducing anthem is their latest feat to achieve seemingly effortlessly.

Speaking to the song, Gina said:

“During the last string of gigs we played, I told the audiences that this song was solely written and inspired by my neck (which Ryan reckons is abnormally long and has adopted ‘Noodle’ as a kind of pet name) but really there’s a bit more going on.
I think in life, I have a tendency to pick things apart until they’re a bit of a mess and Noodle paints an accurate picture of my heavily conflicted and rather ridiculous thought patterns. I guess it’s for people that don’t find it easy to relax and just be happy in themselves and where they’re at. There’s still a good dose of fun and silliness in there though, and a healthy awareness of the fact I tend to twist things way out of shape”.

Listen to the new single below!

Listen to “Rust” by Midnight Ambulance

Photo by Andrew Laing

Midnight Ambulance have shared “Rust“, their third single following on from “Black Gloves” and “5 AM“. The new single was recorded with Paul Winton (LaFontains, Fatherson, American Clay) at North Road Studios.

Theirs a sultry swagger on the bands new single as they face the claustrophobia of a failing relationship and the isolation of lockdown. With a driving groove propelling the single at every moment you can never tell when it will burst out into a flurry of fuzzed out guitars and searing lead lines. “I think I know you / That’s what he used to say / So I got used to being compromised, being sidelined” they sing, a devastating realisation that you’ve become second best. This band is three singles in and are already showcasing their inept talent to write heartbreak bangers.

Listen to the new single below!

Kills Birds share new single “Glisten”

Kills Birds have shared “Glisten”, the second single from their upcoming sophomore album Married. The single also comes alongside a visualiser Edited by Matthew Ryan Ford from “Rabbit” video outtakes.

Opening with a bass line that could have been plucked straight from the Twin Peaks soundtrack, “Glisten” washes over you like a wave of self-doubt. Singing of deceit and lies, they perfectly capture the agony and anger found when someone you trust abuses their power. You can hear the discourse in vocalist Nina Ljeti’s vocals as she cries “Why don’t you love me!”, the chorus crashing down with a brutal and yet enchanting punch. You become lost in the soundscape one moment and begin head-banging the next.

Vocalist Nina Ljeti says of this single, 

“This song is about loving the wrong people. It was written after I experienced a profound betrayal, at the hands of a person who was unable to take accountability for their actions. The lyrics in the chorus (why don’t you love me) are directed at the person in question. In retrospect, they’re also questions I need to ask myself.”

Listen to the new single below!

Oversize share new single “Drive”

Photo by Connor Laws

Bristol 5-piece Oversize have today shared new single “Drive”. Formed just before the pandemic took hold the band sought to refine a sound that draws inspiration from the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr. whilst tying in elements of New Wave and Shoegaze.

Kicking into action with a grinding yet subtly melancholic riff, Overdrive’s new single is packed with full blown untampered energy. Their mixture of emo-core and shoegaze is to be marvelled at, these boys are ones to watch.

Listen to the new single!

Midnight Ambulance share new single “5 AM”

Midnight Ambulance have today shared “5 AM”, the Scottish alternative rock outfit’s second single, following on from “Black Glove”, released earlier in the year. Glistening soundscapes and grinding guitars descend into a wallow of eerie and explosive motions. Detailing the sense of shifting time that has been felt over the last year the duo perfectly capture the panic and anxiety surrounding the unknown.

Last year, old friends Fraser (guitar/vocals) and Amelia (drums/vocals) reconnected after losing touch for many years. When lockdown hit, they began collaborating as a creative and cathartic outlet. Their musical partnership quickly developed into something bigger, writing 70+ songs by June 2020. On Amelia’s return to Scotland, after eight months of writing together via video call, they finally had the opportunity to jam live and decided to form Midnight Ambulance.

Listen to the new single below!

Night Carriage – Plinth Album Review

Ochrus Records – 2021

A debut release in two parts, this is the debut album from Paul Chave under Night Carriage moniker as well as the first release on the newly formed Lincoln based Ochrus Records. Chave having previously worked with the likes of Grassic, Bat Flattery and Original Pilot Project. This album was written, produced and recorded entirely by Chave and its a testament to each of those elements.

The sound is raw and untempered, but that only adds to the grinding drive that each track brings. With riffs that reminisce in the feeling 90’s grunge Smashing Pumpkins on the likes of “Keds” that will have you head-banging from the opening moment. Being the only instrumental on the album it delivers in providing enough energy and prowess that you just know that in a live setting these songs are going to be shaking the walls of any venue. This sound is also felt on “Whiz (New Manifesto)” as the sound glitches in to action until just harsh, bursting riffs and snarling vocals kick in to drive the track fully into motion.

Although the melodies on opener “Janus” may at first seem unconventional, you soon realise how quickly they get stuck in your head. Lo-fi riffs and alternative vocals that dance about the soundscape and left-field turns leave you truly encapsulated until you’re humming it as you try to sleep. An ever expanding song that is ready to explode out of itself.

Title track “Plinth” moves the album into more of synthesised sound as various layers of pads and synthesisers swirl over each other as Chave’s buried vocals try and emerge through the mix. As the lines of “It’s hard” become more and more present you feel as if you’re swirling about through Chave’s psyche as these ideas of holding accountability become more and more present in his mind.

Closing the album “Bear Trap” is perhaps the most intimate sound on this collection of songs. Opening with a melancholy riff that is backed by dark imagery as Chave ponders “I thought my coffin would be white, instead it’s charcoal scarred from the inferno inside”. The track then brings in the grinding riffs and searing lead lines that evoke some of the heights of Nothing’s most recent album The Great Dismal.

One thing that you hear when listening to this album is a lot of potential from the Night Carriage project. There are some aspects of the sound that still need to be refined and defined but still you can hear the raw ideas that Chave is instigating. The sound play and textures within are true to the nature in which they were written and the lyrics are raw and honest. Chave has planted the seeds for this project, now let’s see what can be grown from this promising beginning.

Another Sky – I Slept On The Floor Album Review

Fiction Records – 2020

When Another Sky first burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with their debut single ‘Avalanche’ they quickly garnered attention for their cascading soundscapes and politically charged lyrics. They’ve now returned with a full length offering of just that. With the group first meeting at London’s Goldsmith University they quickly became infused with creating atmospheres and soundscapes as they “rehearsed in total darkness” allowing the music to fill their lack of vision. But vision is what they have plenty of in this album.

Throughout this album the band blends together elements of post-rock, shoegaze, folk and electronic music. All whilst maintaining a certain cinematic drive that carries throughout, offering an expansive platform for the messages delivered to stand high upon. You can certainly here influence within their sound, there’s the alt-rock power rhythms of Mogwai that drive tracks like ‘Riverbed’ and the summer festival afternoon ballad ‘Fell In Love With The City’. Elements of Radiohead creep into certain guitar flourishes or drumbeats on ‘Life Was Coming Through The Blinds’ and ‘Tree’. And the searing guitar leads of Slowdive come through in abundance on almost every track, coated in reverb to give it that extra whip. They don’t deviate too far away from the initial sound palette that they present on opener ‘How Long?’ but offer enough in the way of memorable anthemic melodies and cascading soundscapes that the album for the most part keeps its pace. Every guitar churn could easily be mistaken for a violin hit as the cinematic compositions could easily soundtrack an independent coming of age film; the themes may be dark but the music inspires movement and change. There can become moments throughout where the sound gets buried within itself as each instrument competes to become the most dynamic. But it soon finds its feet again with a powerful drum surge or an atmospheric pause.

The element of this band that really allows their sound to stand onto its own is lead singer Catrin Vincent’s voice. It glides between the subtle and earnest into the bold and brash. It’s not really like any voice that’s been heard in recent times, with its deep baritone rasps. At first it can seem a little off-putting with its harsh abrasive edge. But once you realise that this voice is coming from a place of passion and desire to convey the stories being told with their true emotion, you soon begin to drawn in; and it’s hard to take yourself back out. Unusual embellishments aplenty some of the best vocal performances come on tracks like ‘Life Was Coming Through The Blinds’ where Vincent’s voice dances over the Lo-fi piano loop. And ‘I Slept On The Floor’, the most minimalistic track on the album, as her voice carries the song over the ambient synthesisers, shaped by the vocoder but reaching one of the highest notes on the album towards the end of the song.

The themes that flow throughout this album range from toxic masculinity on ‘Avalanche’ “When you hold them to account
They’ll spit you out, Just a bad taste in their mouth”. To colonialism and Brexit on ‘Let Us Be Broken’ “Our future’s built on a stolen wealth, By post-money kids raising hell, Selling our lives for the promise of health, We want something beyond ourselves”. Politically charged but they ride the fine line between subtlety and outspoken. As with any heartfelt music there’s also heartbreak that lies beneath many of the songs. ‘Fell In Love With The City’ is a timeless love song of longing and loss. “I Fell In Love With The City, As I fell out of love with you, Stranger’s faces, holding their breath, I can see yours in all of theirs”. The process of creating songs is collaborative says the band, but what really ties everything together is Catrin’s story telling ability. Not just her ability to speak from experience, but her movement to tell the stories of others without a voice, in hope to bring about change.

Whilst their sound may borrow elements from many of the founding fathers of post rock, they stand out on their own thanks to Vincent’s unique voice and sense of empowerment through experience. It’s a gratifying debut that sticks true to what it wants to be. We can only hope that Another Sky continue on this run of speaking the unspeakable, and providing a killer soundtrack to go along with it.