Album Review: Everything Everything – A Fever Dream

Review from Ben Forrester

I always thought of Everything Everything as a forward thinking band, but with their last album ‘Get To Heaven‘ they pushed harder than before and the results were beyond stunning. Heads were turned, big venues were packed out and finally Everything Everything became the flamboyant art-rock band that they’d been threatening to be. It would be fair to say there are some pretty big shoes that need filling for this new opus. But, having fallen head over heels with every record this band have delivered thus far, I have no doubt that this fourth LP will see our heroes pushing further into bigger and bolder territories.

A Fever Dream‘ picks up where Get To Heaven left off, full to the brim with huge, sprawling pop melodies wrapped up in expansive sonic blankets. ‘Night Of The Long Knives‘, ‘Can’t Do‘ and ‘Desire‘ are an adrenaline pumping opening hat-trick of gold. Each chorus is hefty yet swaggering with the verses driving home that rhythmical force EE have had nailed since day one.

From then on, it’s all about diving into a vast ocean of sound and melody. Everything Everything have always made eclectic records, but A Fever Dream is perhaps their most diverse set so far. There is certainly more of a focus on guitars here, with tracks like ‘Ivory Tower‘ and ‘Run The Numbers‘ boasting some pretty beefy riffage, especially in the chorus of the latter; it’s proper stink face stuff! In places, the band go back to the sound of their first album with lots of this lovely, groovy guitar/bass interplay going on throughout the tracks here. It’s a nice little nod to their earlier material and works well with their journey into making huge pop music.

Although I’m all about the groovy pop jems, it’s when EE dig a little deeper that they really shine here. The title track is one of the most perfect pieces the band have put together, beginning as a heartfelt piano ballad before transforming into this shimmering electronica track that sweeps you away and takes you into a whole new realm. A Fever Dream is all about building these luscious layers of synths and guitars to send you into another stratosphere. ‘Good Shot, Good Soldier‘ is a beautifully uplifting moment, with front man Jonathan’s vocals sounding at their most pure and angelic.

Lyrically, this strikes me as Jonathan trying to find himself among the chaos that surrounds him. ‘New Deep‘ is a dark yet atmospheric soundscape that is instrumental until its final seconds when he bewilderingly croons “Is there something wrong with all of us or is there something wrong with me?” It’s a moment that comes as a bit of a curve ball on first listen, but it makes you listen to the album again with a different perspective. These songs are all dressed up so smart but there lies an ambiguous bleakness within the lyrics that are designed to make you think about the state our world is currently in. That’s the genius of this band, there are many layers to peel and A Fever Dream is their most multi-skinned tapestry.

At the heart of A Fever Dream lies a fully beating and perfectly healthy pop record, but it’s the little twists and turns in its production and structures that turns it into this incredibly intelligent and encompassing piece of artistry. It sees Everything Everything at their most instant and hard hitting, but is full of beauty and space which makes for their boldest statement as a band to date.

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EP Review: Down I Go – Mortals

Review from Ben Forrester

Down I Go have always gone about things differently. First up, they manage to remain a band whilst living in three very separate parts of the globe. For example, this new EP that we’re about to tuck into was written in a factory basement in Toronto, tracked in a barn in Illinois and then finished off in front-man Pete’s suburban house in Stockholm.

Another interesting fact about Down I Go (which dates back to when the band all lived in the same city), is that every release always seemed to follow a theme or story of sorts. With this new record ‘Mortals‘, the trio have delved further into Greek Mythology with what has been conceived as a sequel to their 2011 EP ‘Gods’.

Due to their transatlantic situation, we don’t hear from them as often as we’d like to, but as it’s only been two years since they dropped the stunning LP ‘You’re Lucky God, That I Cannot Reach You‘, Mortals comes as somewhat of a surprise release!

Mortals is another masterclass in Down I Go’s untouchable theatrical brand of hardcore. Each track hits you with thick walls of guitars, thunderous drums topped with throat shredding vocals that jump to an always brutal tour de force of noise. But what counteracts this is the melodic, clean vocals that are even more prominent here! Each track is smothered in rich harmony layered vocals that just sound brilliantly bonkers over these hard slices of post-hardcore.

Psyche‘ is a fun opener, with a bouncing riff that is coupled with these big choir like vocals that takes it to a totally different dimension, one that you can’t help but be engulfed by. ‘Pandora‘ is a similar affair that combines chunky riff driven grooves with these euphoric and almost transcendent vocal harmonies.

Palaemon‘ goes even deeper, with moments of overlaid and super delayed brass that takes you to a whole other universe, but brings you right back to earth for full throttle, head spinning breakdowns. It’s one of their more head fucking moments for sure. ‘Heracles‘ closes this brief yet perfectly formed set with another huge slab of thunder inducing heaviness, with other worldly vocals that will finish you off in the most delectable crescendo of jazzed up keyboards and snappy falsetto vocals. It’s the dramatic conclusion I was hungry for.

Mortals is Down I Go’s most powerful offering to date. It has all the off the way, earth crushing traits that made their earlier material so great but with a focus on more extravagant vocals and the knack for throwing us off guard into these ace little moments of weirdness. Mortals is a vital part of the band’s consistently strong discography.

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Album Review: The Cribs – 24-7 Rock Star Shit

Review from Ben Forrester

Despite this album only being announced two weeks ago, the hype for it has been building up for a number of years now. It all began when Wakefield’s finest The Cribs were making their fourth album in the states, back in 2011. During these sessions, they spent a couple of days with legendary engineer Steve Albini and thus the rumors of ‘the Punk record‘ were born. Although an Albini produced track did appear on the album they were working on, the Jarman brother’s still continued down the road of making big sparkling guitar pop records.

But it transpires that at the back end of last year, the trio headed back to Chicago and after just five days of drinking coffee and recording, came out with the highly anticipated Albini punk record! So yeah, the expectations are pretty high for this new LP and with critics and fans alike stating that this is their ‘death-or-glory game-changer‘, I’m pleased to report that on first listen alone, ‘24-7 Rock Star Shit‘ is definitely a game changing moment for The Cribs.

Although it harks back to the rough and ready approach of their first two records, there is certainly a sense of confidence and wisdom that runs beneath this record that could only come from a band that have been together for as long as they have. Their love for US punk and alt-rock is very apparent throughout and it’s the simplistic power-pop of tracks like ‘What Have You Done For Me?‘ and blistering opener ‘Give Good Time‘ that gives them such a timeless quality. Of course Steve Albini’s bare bones production is the perfect fit for these songs and not only drives home the sincerity of the performances, but also reinforces the tightness of this band of brothers.

There is no denying the pop sensibilities that the band bring here, with ‘In Your Palace‘ carrying one of their most anthemic choruses to date, while ‘Rainbow Ridge‘ has this Nirvana like pop vibe going on and it totally works! But at the same time, you have ‘Year Of Hate‘ and ‘Broken Arrow‘ that bring back a more snarling, heavier tone to proceedings. It’s good to hear them crank up the amps a bit more here; punk-rock definitely suits them.

The Cribs have always been great at making an album that has a beginning, middle and end and 24-7 Rock Star Shit isn’t just pure punk belters. With the acoustically driven prettiness of ‘Sticks Not Twigs‘ and the electronic-tinges of 5 minute epic ‘Dead At The Wheel‘, the band definitely try to go deeper structurally. And although these do sound a little out of context with the rest of the record at first, after a few listens you realise that their deliveries contribute well to the directness and honesty of the album.

I have a lot of time for every Cribs record but for me, 24-7 Rockstar Shit gets back to the fundamental idea of the band and reason I fell in love with them – three brothers belting out punked-up pop songs in a basement together. I’ve always loved the sheer energy and ferocity of the band live and this record perfectly captures the sheer euporia of going to a Cribs show. Back that with big tunes, fun riffs and plenty of sing-your-heart-out hooks and you’ve got yourself the best Cribs album since the seminal ‘Mens Needs, Womens Needs, Whatever. In Cribs fanboy language, that means it’s fucking great!

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Album Review: She The Throne – She The Throne

Review from Ben Forrester

I do love a good DIY collective and This City Is Ours are one of Manchester’s finest. The collective has done an amazing job of championing a whole host of futuristic projects and producers over the past 6 years or so and have put on some killer nights in the city, putting out some equally killer records. I’m extremely excited to tuck into this brand new release to come from within the collective, as it’s a project that has come out of nowhere and its elusiveness has definitely sparked some intrigue.

She The Throne only announced themselves to the world earlier this month and today release their debut self-titled record. Having heard a snippet of the record a few weeks back in the form of the brooding 80’s synth pop of ‘Sometimes My Arms Bend Back‘, my intrigue has only heightened.

The record begins with ‘Rust Part 1’ and ‘…Part 2‘, which instantly draws you into the centre of an unsettling scene of vintage synth rumbles and lo-fi spoken word samples that has this very cinematic feel. If you like your horror movie soundtracks, this will certainly be up your street as this has a very John Carptener like feel. What then twists the plot is the introduction of these beautiful, swirling vocals that bring colour and harmony to an otherwise dark and eerie backdrop. It’s like being in this beautiful nightmare and as the track concludes to a rise of arpeggiated synth whirls, you can’t help but feel fully absorbed into this unique state of mind that the duo lull you into.

The aforementioned Sometimes My Arms Bend Back concludes the first side of this two sided cassette release and offers a more straight up song structure. Tribal drums, squelching synth bass and delay heavy vocals swim around your head to create an almost dreamy effect, but there is still this sense of darkness that lurks beneath this track that says – this isn’t over.

The second side of the record offers a more meditative and dreamy tone as it starts off as a gentle ambient influenced passage before building into this glitchy yet glittering piece of electro that is ‘White Tiger‘ to move through waves of the beautifully textured synthesiser soundcapes that complete this incredibly affecting and moving piece.

She The Throne is an extremely immersive listening experience. There is such a sense of intricacy that flows through this record and you can’t help but feel engulfed by the textures and timbres that the duo incorporate to create this other worldly state. Honestly, put some good headphones in, turn the lights off and let the darkness hypnotise you into seeing its colourful sonic splendour.

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Album Review: Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

Review from Ben Forrester

You can tell a lot about a record just from its title and cover art. The fifth album from Manchester Orchestra is entitled ‘A Black Mile To The Surface‘, with its cover featuring a striking black and white photograph of a distant figure holding onto the branch of a tall, skinny tree. Instantly, I can’t help but feel that this is going to be a darker and more brooding affair than the fuzzed up college rock racket of 2014’s ‘Cope‘. Since the release of that record, the band created a stripped back, re-arranged version of the album and then went to making an acapella soundtrack to the beautiful film ‘Swiss Army Man‘ which came out last year. With all these notions in mind I also think that we’re going to get something much more cinematic and expansive than before.

All of the above assumptions seem pretty spot on when diving into this record. ‘The Maze‘ is a beautifully understated opener that could rival fan favourite ‘Deer‘ which opened up 2011’s ‘Simple Math‘ in a similar way. The main difference with this track though is the feeling of space and atmosphere that it carries, with multi layered harmonies coming in for a more dramatic dynamic. It really is a breathtaking start.

Tracks like ‘The Gold‘ and ‘The Grocery‘ are just massive pop tracks. The sheer depth of the production on these tracks is stunning and they really reel you in to then push you off a mountain. Again, the vocal harmonies here really strike out and it’s very clear that the band have brought new life into the way they think about their voices and the way in which they use them. Lead vocalist Andy Hull has such a pure voice and I can always hear sincerity in every word he sings, in fact the acoustically driven track ‘The Parts‘ is a great example of the devastatingly beautiful effect his voice can have.

There’s also a few more louder moments on this record. But before, Manchester Orchestra were all about impact and going super quiet to super loud. On this record, it’s all about building to shimmering bursts of sonic enlightenment. ‘The Moth‘ and ‘The Wolf‘ have driving guitars and crashing drums but again it’s all about being atmospheric and brooding here, they want to evoke an emotion.

Honestly, I think some of these tracks could have been on the Twilight soundtrack or something, they’re just so theatrical, especially the last 30 seconds of The Moth which is where we get full throttle vocals, screaming out high pitched and drenched in reverb for a dramatic crescendo. The overall sound of the record is a lot less heavier than previous MO efforts, but when they want to they can still pack a punch.

Sonically and structurally, A Black Mile To The Surface sees Manchester Orchestra at their most expansive and inventive, but still retains the warm indie-rock crunch that drives their previous outputs. I think they’ve spent a long time trying to make the biggest and most dynamic rock songs they can, but here they turn the amps down a little and although there is the same amount of energy and intensity there, it’s all about atmosphere.

In conclusion, A Black Mile To The Surface is a dramatic, climactic and ultimately beautiful piece of work that reaffirms them as a band, always thinking and expanding the musical and philosophical ideas behind the word passion.

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EP Review: Wot Gorilla? – Angel Numbers

Review from Ben Forrester

Wot Gorilla? have been math-rock’s best kept secret for the best part of a decade. I’ve been absolutely chomping at the bit to hear a new full length since the Halifax based outfit dropped their superb debut back in 2011. But with a couple of line up changes and real life getting in the way, things have been a bit quiet on the Wot Gorilla? front as of late.

The last thing we heard was a double A single in 2016 which showed off the new three-piece version of the band, complete with new drummer. Although the tracks were their usual frantic brand of math-rock, they also showed a darker, heavier side of the band which we’d only seen glimpses of before. So, with this in mind, I am very excited to have a new EP in my mitts. It may not be that second record I was waiting for, but instead we get five brand new jams to sink our teeth into.

Kikuna‘ opens the record and is probably the most bat shit opening 20 seconds of a record ever! A super spiky guitar riff pierces your left ear immediately before bass and drums come to kick the fucking door down with the most brilliantly chaotic beat down you’ll hear this year. It is fucking crushing. It’s perhaps one of the most straight up heavy tracks I’ve heard from this band and it took me about 10 listens before I could move on to the rest of the record, it’s that monstrous!

11:11‘ sounds a bit more like the Wot Gorilla? of yore, packing in as many riffs as possible with a more melodic, post-hardcore tinged vibe. Although there is a breakdown about mid way which is pretty nasty, it goes pretty beautiful and epic for a moment, acoustic guitars and all, before descending into this almost prog-metal like section which is chunky, groovy and totally (head) banging. This band are annoyingly clever, each track has so many neat ideas; some act as neat segue ways into the next, others are totally out-there but add to the mad-scientist genius of some of these tunes.

At times, this record can be a little intense and almost a tad brain frying, but I think that is what makes it such an exhilarating listen. I mean, try getting through the first 40 seconds of ‘Watch Out For The Tentacles!‘ without breaking a sweat. What I do like though is that for every minute of madness, you’re always rewarded with a nice little hook or melody or something a little sweet to help soften the blow a bit. I’ve always loved front man Matt’s vocal, it’s kinda got a Glassjaw/Fall Of Troy vibe, which I’m all over. There’s some really soaring vocals on this thing, the melodies on ‘Soak‘ in particular are really quite beautiful, adding to the climactic nature of this unashamedly massive closer.

For the most part, ‘Angel Numbers‘ shows off Wot Gorilla? at their heaviest and boy does it suit them! Although it still has a whole planet’s worth of ideas stuffed into each tune, there is a bit more focus within the song structures which is something I felt was needed with some previous material. Having been a fan of this band from pretty much the start, it’s clear to see how far they have progressed and they seem like they have more of an identity with this new release.

Honestly, this is one of the best math records you will hear this year; totally thrilling, beefy as fuck and full of these awesome little clever bits that give me goosebumps! Wot Gorilla? are the most underrated band in UK math-rock, but with a record like Angel Numbers and the UK Math community being as strong as it is right now, it’s only a matter of time before everyone realises that Wot Gorilla? are one of our strongest assets.

Angel Numbers‘ is out Friday! Click to pre-order!

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EP Review: Crashtactics – The Hawk Is Out

Review from Ben Forrester

As an avid follower of Manchester’s DIY scene, I was very keen to hear the first fruits of labour from Crashtactics, due to its founding members being prevalent within the North West’s alt-rock community. Guitarist Alex is the head of super good noisy rock label Superstar Destroyer Records and drummer Sion use to play in New Hips, one of the cities most brilliantly odd-ball math outfits. The duo have played on some pretty tasty line ups since their formation in 2015, bringing their teched out brand of math-rock across the city, and now they’re finally ready to present their debut EP ‘The Hawk Is Out‘.

On listening to this four track EP, it’s clear to hear the amount of effort that has gone into its creation. Every track has been maliciously crafted, featuring complex, sprawling structures that encompass an array of genres and their emotive qualities, from spaced out psych tendencies to pumped up metal inspired break downs. What is so apparent here is the attention to detail the band have put in and each track is full of these beautiful little flourishes that propel these compositions into new realms of sonic splendour.

Opening track ‘Williams‘ immediately straps you in, as a wonked out guitar and drum groove cuts in straight away, complete with a fuzzed up synth bass line to up its urgency. More synthed out sounds and effect drenched guitars saunter around these three key instruments, never disrupting the main melodic focus, subtly enhancing this ever building sense of intensity. This soon descends into this purely euphoric closing section, driven by uplifting yet chunky guitar chugs and a splash heavy drum beat that could well be one of the most uplifting beat downs you’ll hear this year.

The rest of this EP follows suit, with each track packed to the rafters with ideas and dynamic shifts to keep you on your toes. Compositionally speaking, there is very much this idea of starting in one place and ending up on a completely different planet by the end. But due to this very logical sense of songwriting, it never feels too indulgent and the band move ideas with style and grace. But of course, there’s plenty of madness on it. ‘Thayhil‘ is a definite highlight as it jumps from balls out shredding to this mega cosmic jazz meets shoegaze section before it goes into this descending, chaotic rocked out ending complete with wah-wah pedals and everything!

It has to be said that the production is super sharp and really helps bring some of the more instant riffs to the forefront whilst also bringing out the tightness of the playing, especially in drummer Sion who impressively flickers between jazz-like fills to super tight tech-metal beats in the blink of an eye. As mentioned previously, it’s the little touches that really makes this record blossom and I love tracks like ‘FDP‘ which incorporate vocals as an extra layer of snarl to the already frantic wall of riffs and soaring, delay-heavy noodling.

The Hawk Is Out‘ is a very promising debut indeed. What strikes me the most about it is how much confidence it carries and Crashtactics take no prisoners in presenting a record that is overflowing with grandiose thoughts and feelings. I don’t think you necessarily have to know its creators to know that this is a record made by nerds for nerds and I mean that in the most complimentary way; this is the best kind of organised chaos and you Math heads are gonna love it!

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