JAGWAR MA – ‘Every Now and Then’ Album Review

Australian band Jagwar Ma drew comparisons with dance rock artists such as Happy Mondays and ‘Screamadelica’ era Primal Scream upon release of their 2013 debut ‘Howlin’. The band’s second album is another collection of dance-y, psychedelic songs guaranteed to please fans of the band. The band (now a trio with the arrival of bassist Jack Freeman) have just finished the UK leg of an international tour and released ‘Every Now and Then’ in mid October. The album was recorded in several locations spanning more than one continent – including a studio the band helped build themselves in a rural French farmhouse. It also features several special guest appearances from Arctic Monkey’s producer James Ford and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa amongst others.

Immediately apparent upon listening to the album is a sense of fun and playfulness.  Lead single ‘OB-1’ is named after the Oberheim OB-1 synthesiser, whilst seven minute epic ‘Give Me a Reason’ features an extended outro involving the band giving instructions for a dance move called ‘The Amoeba’, a moment that could be characterised as both sublime and ridiculous. Whilst these songs, along with ‘Slipping’ are stand-out tracks, this sense of lightheartedness continues throughout.

Despite its many influences, ‘Every Now and Then’ manages to be strikingly original. This is perhaps actually because of these influences: there are so many of them, from such eclectic sources, that if one track reminds you of something, the next certainly won’t. The album moves between electronica, psychedelic rock, soul and numerous other genres – in the case of ‘Give Me a Reason’ often in the same song.

In comparison to their first album, ‘Every Now and Then’ leans slightly more in the electronic direction. However, there are more than enough similarities to ensure that anybody who enjoyed ‘Howlin’ will also enjoy ‘Every Now and Then’. Meanwhile Jagwar Ma’s lengthy touring schedule, which has included support slots with fellow Aussies Tame Impala may help bring ‘Every Now and Then’ to a wider audience.

 

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Temples – ‘Certainty’

Two and a half years after their first album Sun Structures, Temples have returned with a teaser from their as yet untitled follow up. This comes in the form of their latest single, ‘Certainty’, which is available to listen to on the band’s Soundcloud.

It’s apparent from the start that Temples are not content with simply rehashing the same formula that brought them success on their debut. ‘Certainty’ retains the trippy psychedelia the band is known for, but the addition of a synthesiser increases the sonic possibilities and makes for a beefier sound – and arguably a more original one. Where Sun Structures was clearly rooted in 60’s guitar music, ‘Certainty’ takes us in a more space-age direction.

After a brief drum intro and the shock of hearing a synthesiser, we are treated to a fantastic, effects laden hook that manages to sound eerie and blissful all at once. Vocally, the song’s melodies and reverb soaked approach is perhaps the closest link to the previous album. Whilst it would be hard to call the verses stripped back, they are in comparison to the chorus, where layer upon layer of sound is added.

This brings us to perhaps the only small criticism of ‘Certainty’ – that in places almost too much is going on. The song is packed with short motifs which appear briefly then disappear, resurfacing maybe once or twice at different points. For the most part these work fine and sound great, but occasionally it is hard to work out exactly what is happening with so many layers on top of each other. Despite this minor quibble, this is an excellent return from Temples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring King – ‘Detroit’ Review

“This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band,” a famous punk rock poster informs and implores us. Manchester post-punk band Spring King sticks to this 3-chord, simple-is-best ethos on latest single ‘Detroit’. The song begins with a high energy, distorted guitar riff that continues through the verses and from there the energy never lets up; the only deviation from the simplicity found in Pete Darlington’s guitar solo.

Also borrowed from the punk ethos is the band’s DIY attitude towards recording. Like the rest of Spring King’s debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, ‘Detroit’ is produced by frontman and drummer Tarek Musa. However these are no crackly bedroom recordings – though the band are no stranger to these: drum parts for early material were often recorded in Musa’s bathroom – instead, the song is well produced, making sparing but noticeable use of studio effects, with all tracks clear in the mix.  

 ‘Detroit’ is noticeably more joyful than some of the other tracks featured on ‘Tell Me If You Like To’. Interestingly, this is not necessarily a good thing; Spring King are arguably at their best when there is a little bit of edge, a sense of danger in their playing. Overall, the song doesn’t quite match up to some of their other singles, such as ‘City’ and ‘Who Are You?’, and it may well suffer on the album itself for being placed between these two. However, ‘Detroit’ is still a fun (if slightly throwaway) listen; a quick thrill whose energy carries it through a lack of much musical innovation. Live, one might suspect, in a sweaty, excitable crowd, the song could become a different beast entirely.    

Faux – ‘Inhale’ EP review

Back in June I had the pleasure of reviewing Southampton band Faux’s single ‘Inhale’. The song was an excellent combination of intimate verses and huge choruses, taken from their latest EP (also named ‘Inhale’). The full EP is now available on both iTunes and Spotify amongst other formats, including a limited vinyl pressing of 300 copies.

The title track’s intimate verses and big choruses are retained on the EP’s following four songs, but there is a slight shift of pace after the opener. Whilst ‘Inhale’ is spacious and reverb drenched for much of the song, the remainder of the EP is busier, more tightly wound. ‘Nerves’ opens in explosive fashion with a fiddly guitar riff, and while the reverb-y sound is present in the verse, a second guitar keeps the energy high. ‘Call’ dials down the tempo a touch, but not by much. The drumming – solid on every track – is particularly impressive here, whilst the build-up to the first chorus really sticks out.   

Fiddly clean guitar riffs are a persistent feature throughout the EP, but the best of them are arguably found in the verse and pre-chorus of ‘You know’. These are followed by another of the sing-along choruses which seem to be a staple part of the band’s repertoire. Closing song ‘Swimmingly’ begins as frenetically as any of the others, but soon calms down in the verses, which like in ‘Inhale’ are more reflective. It switches between these and a chorus which wastes no time jumping back into a higher gear, before an ending as big as any that have come before it.

Throughout the EP, Faux manage to pair their emo influences with some infectious hooks, resulting in a sound almost reminiscent in places of a slightly harder edged Two Door Cinema Club. The instrumentation at no point seems lazy; in places it brims with invention. For fans of either emo or indie rock, Faux are well worth checking out.

Leader: ‘Young Again’

Oxfordshire band Leader have been busy since their formation in 2014. In just over two years the 5 piece have played gigs and festivals all over the country, including opening up the main stage at Penn Fest last weekend on a bill including the likes of Britpop veterans Shed Seven and Ocean Colour Scene. In addition to this, they have put out three EP’s; ‘Honest Man’, ‘Landing Light’, and their latest: the eponymous ‘Leader’ EP.

‘Young Again’ is both the opening track of this EP and also the subject of the band’s latest video. It’s a song built for festival season and large crowds, with catchy hooks and a big, sing-along chorus. Lyrically – as might be expected from its title – ‘Young Again’ seems to be a nostalgic look at simpler times, as singer Ben Edginton tells us about the naivety of his youth, describing himself as “a dreamer” who thought “the streets were paved with gold”, before begging “take me back, I want to feel young again”. This nostalgia also seems to seep into the music, with its stripped back verses creating a wistful, reflective mood. This is transformed in the chorus however, where the nostalgia becomes a more joyous affair.

Exactly why Leader would want to go back is anyone’s guess. After a successful EP launch and armed with a brilliant new video and single, the band appears well poised to take big steps forward.