Monday, 30 July 2012

Faux Feet EP Review

Review by Jake Carter
Faux Feet's latest EP is certainly worthy of your attention if you're a Stokie who doesn't mind spending a pound or three supporting local artists. Since home recording has become increasingly less expensive I don't think I'm the only person who's become a little tired of wading through a sea of mediocre releases trying to find a gem. For a mere three pounds I don't think you can go wrong with this release and the recording quality combined with decent tracks definitely leaves this self titled EP sounding above the rest around these streets.

Opening track Handlebars begins more like something you'd hear from Four Tet than Faux Feet. I'm quite the fan of dreary and bleeping intros, but for those who're not don't threat; it doesn't take long before we're back to the familiar sounds of Faux Feet that you'd expect if you'd ever had the chance of seeing them live. Obviously Sian's voice above glistening and sometimes distorted guitars is what makes Faux Feet what they are, but it definitely feels that from the very start of this EP they've upped their game and all aspects of their music has improved.

The next track Down has bright and clear verses which transcend into extremely catchy and quite epic choruses. It's a solid middle track which I think does a fantastic job of pulling the EP together and complimenting it's surrounding siblings. Something I value is a well thought out collection of songs which flow together throughout - and this is something immediately apparent on this EP. The last minute and a half have to be the best part of the track and if you're anything like me you'll be walking around singing "Down down down" after a few listens.

Sleep Paralysis is in my opinion the best track from the EP and I could also see many a gig being ended with this number. The first thing that hits you is the vocal processing which is present at various parts of the track. You have to give credit to the person who produced the track as there's currently much hate for processed vocals, however on this track they're spot on and in my opinion are what makes this song stand out. It helps of course that the lyrics on this track - and throughout the EP for that matter - sound like they've been worked on and not just thoughtlessly scribbled down to make ends meet.

Overall I think Faux Feet have done an excellent job with this EP. Three tracks long, easy to get into and most importantly after listening a few times I was left wanting more. I think as long as the quality remains, a future, longer release could be an even greater local success.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Black Widows @ The Old Brown Jug 25th July 2012

Review by Robert Egan
It’s hot tonight and the Jug is no exception. The room is muggy and close; so understandably most of the patrons are taking the opportunity to sit outside in the beer garden…The problem is that the Black Widows are about to play and they want a crowd, cue one of the best teasers that I have seen; the group decide to venture outside and perform an impromptu acoustic set. Scott the frontman is up onto one of the tables doing what every good frontman should be doing & entertaining, as the back line (or those that can rather) add their various elements. This has the effect of quenching a little of the audience’s thirst and entice them just enough that when after a couple of tracks the band announce that they are live upstairs, a fair proportion decide to go follow.
Their opening track ‘Post Golden gate blues’ is loud and jumpy with an encouraging tempo leading well into the second track ‘Arkansas Sound’ which has an appropriate country root and more than noticeable Punk stem. I like how the main vocals have been taken on by the lead guitarist too which adds to the variety. The third track ‘Take the Gun’ has a Dire Straits backline sound but with a clash style evident from the front instruments. The lead guitar gives a piercing accompaniment sounding not too dissimilar to The Cribs at times.
When the Black Widows appeared on the Stoke Sounds radio recently they chatted about how they like to convey a story with their lyrics rather than just create a song for its own sake and this is evident in most of their repertoire, as we are invited to listen to the tales being spoken. ‘What might have been’ is the fourth track and one of the songs that they played live on the radio show, so it is nice to be able to listen to it in all of its live and amped glory. By the time of ‘My World’, which has a gorgeous lead intro and an interesting drum pattern, I am slightly entranced and I want to listen to the story just as much as I enjoy listening to the song itself. The lyrics are important and the music accompanies them, the guitar is sparse and accentuates the vocals rather than drowning them out and gradually the music drives further and further taking you with it to a climactic crescendo. If you like The Doors and Jim Morrison’s ability to take you on a journey, then you will get an idea of what I mean.
‘Dead like you’re alive’ is about a girl sitting in a cafĂ© and the seaside organ sound is evocative, as I visualise a picture, which I suppose is exactly the effect that the band wished. It is easy to hear a distinct Black Widows sound, but it’s hard to categorise them; country/blues with a hint of the late 60’s/early 70’s rock and punk for perhaps....?  Think the Velvet Underground without Reed or Nico, or the more modern Midlake, but on Prozac…Not that you should assume that this band are quiet or subtle in any way.
‘Turn and run’ has a guitar sound not dissimilar to Soundgarden’s, ‘Black hole sun’ in its uneasy effect and along with the bass notes, promotes a dystopian view as the title suggests. The music accentuates the vocals again and gradually the tempo increases taking us along for the ride, suddenly releasing the lead guitar with a lick you could race Formula 1 cars to. No sooner have I jotted those ideas down than they have just tripped the sound-o-meter for the venue and half of the instruments are cut off. This is just how good The Black Widows can’s not about keeping it low key, it’s about delivering a message with clarity and the minimum of distortion, whilst still possessing a volume enough to blow the venue’s trip switch.
Musically The Black Widows are tight and sound polished and professional; with a particular nod to the lead guitar, and Scott Francis’ vocals which have a slight transatlantic twang which I don’t normally go for, but it is slight and works well in this outfit. They seem possessed with a new spirit ready to take you on a shamanistic journey, and who knows, you may just emerge from the trance ready to heal your own tribe…

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Situation presents Adam Atkinson / Suzie does it / The Blue Yellows @ The Foxlowe 21st July 2012

Review by Charlotte Lunt

This was only the second gig for Adam Atkinson, who was treating us to a set of his bluesy melancholia this evening. From early on it was clear he was playing to his friends and supporters who had come along as there were plenty of in-jokes and banter between them.

His optimistic lyrics and creative melodies show his potential as a writer, although he has chosen the route of being a frontman without a band rather than taking an acoustic pathway. This is betrayed at moments when it is not a massive leap of the imagination to envisage a full line up behind him both visually and musically, with the potential for intertwining backing vocals being very apparent. However he holds his own with a set comprising of his own compositions such as ‘Shining light’ and a couple of covers to boot.

Suzie does it, are a duo, who perform close harmonies and very tight playing. Throughout their set they perform tracks from their new EP, and also provide a generous sales and social media pitch, showcasing some really rather good guitar playing, and also some stunning vocals. They played a consistently strong set with hints of Country and Folk. This is clearly a duo who know they’ve got nothing to prove and who enjoy playing for the sake of it.

Just as the Blue Yellows take to the stage, in what seems like a per-arranged move, the room filled with a substantial audience, it looked like I wasn’t the only one anticipating a foot stomping set from Jonathan and Co. Opening with ‘Killing me’ a jaunty rock number which had a clear sense of humour lurking in the keyboard hooks, before moving to a more mellow number featuring the not often heard accordion, these guys really do pack a punch, with the song ‘Cry Cry Kill’ really echoing round the room and getting people off their chairs and onto the dance floor.

The thing about the Blue Yellows is that they’re not a one trick pony; each song is distinct and has its own personality, whilst maintaining a definitive Blue Yellows sound. Through a number of the tracks the melodies are punctuated with humour and light hearted keyboards as well as acerbic lyrics.

Hitting a more mellow note the audience were permitted a breather before they launched into Stoke Sounds favourite and championed ‘Summer anthem’ ‘No Tobacco, No Jesus’. Jon offered a curious explanation about the title involving missionaries and their converts (which to be fair I haven’t done justice to here) and with the crowd nodding like a flock of pigeons singing along, they all seemed like they were enjoying it too.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Breaking Satellites / My Vote of Confidence at The Sugarmill 6th July 2012

Review and photo by Robert Egan

Arriving to a darkened room with a generously sized crowd, My Vote of Confidence opened with a suitably inspiring intro which breaks into a driving rock number. It's immediately apparent that there seems to be a hint of the balladesque stadium rock from the mid/late 80's and early 90's here although not too much to be fair and as more and more crowd seem to be appearing from somewhere like moths to a flame; the question is, will they get burned or dance into the light? The answer is the latter.

The second track which begins with a Slash like guitar solo & pacey tempo. Their third number 'Holding Fast' changes the mood slightly as it holds within a darker & drier sounding menace than the preceding tracks and the guitarist/front man has a style, ability and experience to draw from than I would normally associate with a guy of his age. The drummer is certainly enjoying himself, providing such an amount of energy to the performance that I'm jealously wondering how he is able to play like that & not be dripping with sweat. 'Demons by Design' is a new track with a gorgeous bass line that winds around your ears as if tapping in to your body’s' rhythms. I have to say that I was left wondering where the grungy, heavily distorted guitar was; I’m tantalised & expecting it, but it doesn’t come; perhaps it's the mix levels tonight? Not that its absence detracts from the sound at all as this 3-piece are definitely whacking it out, just that in other bands with a similar sound, there's another guitar complimenting the bassline and providing a driving grind which I think would add effect-but that's my opinion.

'Hand Full of sugar' comes after an impromptu interaction from the singer with the crowd and they give thanks for the preceding band which is always nice to hear. Overall My Vote of Confidence are tight sounding and professional, the guitars are slick and imaginative, the drums are energetic and driving and the basslines are to die for, which given the volume of the Mill's sound system, could cause bodily dysfunction...I did note a lack of variety in their set however, but if you like indie/rock with a hint of grunge then you will get it more than enough if it. My Vote of Confidence are definitely worth catching, especially as they announced that their last Stoke gig was 12 months ago, the brevity of their appearances locally is surely a motivation to catch them when you can...

Headlining tonight's showcase is Breaking Satellites, by which time I was hanging around the balcony like a shadowy phantom, waiting to capture some images of their opening track. Instead we were greeted with a pre-record intro that shook the room if not the soul like 5.9 on the Richter scale. This band wants to make an impression & an entrance and by the time they emerge from the green room, the crowd are chomping at the bit.

I was caught on the tidal wave of the first two tracks 'Spilt Ink', 'Take Flight' as I certainly did not expect this kind of audible assault from them. With 5 members on the stage, they have a big sound and a big presence to go with it, people are hugging the stage like it is their last chance to get on to the evacuation ferry and holding on to the rails just as tightly. Their third track 'Bang Tidy' has the front man screaming out at an impressive larynx shattering level at times & although I can't hear him, the 2nd guitarist seems to be belting it out just as much on backing vox. Of particular note to me was the intricate & unusual drum pattern which gives a hint of their potential although at times it did sound as if there was a slight delay between the synchronisation of the rest of the members playing along with it; not that it was that noticeable to be fair.

There seemed to be some issue with equipment by this point & I was not surprised given the level at which it was coming out-I've seen bass amps on fire whilst being played a lot quieter! But the drummer filled the space with an impressive solo. The variety between tracks is of note and it is not easy to categorise them, especially as the front man announces that the next track is a 'slow depressing' one, which it certainly isn't. It does have a story however which seems quite dark & the singer's vox are gravelly at times; he definitely doesn't have a voice that you would expect for someone so young, nor do we have a lot of in Stoke, he sounded like a younger version of Translucid's front man-which is not a bad thing at all.

The crowd are certainly kept involved throughout the set & the front man engages with them at every opportunity which not a lot of bands do these days and it does seems to be appreciated. For me there's a little punk, a little emo maybe and a developed sound, which can be a little loose at times, but nothing that detracts from the enjoyment. An example is the new song '3/4' which as the name suggests, has a nice 3/4 timed intro which seamlessly develops into a 4/4 which I was massively impressed with and there is a sizeable amount of people dancing away, absorbing the energy. 'Nothing to Hurt You' has a high pitched guitar over a tom-driven drum beat & the singer is straight up onto the stage riser to entice the crowd further. Their encore 'Sleeping Alone' gave a fitting finale to their set and left everyone satisfied with the experience.

Breaking Satellites are young, energetic with a large sound. They already posses a quality repertoire and this hints at how good they could become as they develop musically.