Friday, 6 March 2009

Stef Reviews - Calories - Adventuring

I didn't even know, until coming to write this little review, that Calories were made up of members of former Birmingham band Distophia. And I used to like Distophia. Madness.

Adventuring is a brilliant little album to get excited about. "Off we go, into the sunset," they sing, "off we flee, into the sea" to kick off the record in "A Bear, A Bison", a great upbeat song that gets you in the spirit of things straight away, from each building verse, to each group-laden chorus. It's uplifting stuff.

Songs such as "Caught In The In-between" and "To Encounter A Deer" channel the spirits of Idlewild past (back when they were more punky and awesome, "When I Argue, I See Shapes" anyone?), before "Adventuring" kicks in with it's Futureheads-esque chorus of "Adventuring, is dangerous, but danger can be fun", and is by far the catchiest song on the record, with some inspired instrumental sections, and great guitar lines.

The next few songs take a turn for 90's indie punk again, before "Drugged" ambles in, with it's laid back verse leading into a group vocal lead chorus of "Everything is beautiful, and ends some way, and then it's gone, and then it's not", which I can only imagine creates some amazing live show singalongs.

"Same Ideals" almost sounds like a Johnny Foreigner song for the first 20 seconds, but then turns into a different beast as it merges into next track "(See You On The Expedition)", almost like a hybrid of Biffy Clyro and Jetplane Landing, but without the scottish and irish accents respectively. "See you on the the expedition" sing Calories, continuing the "adventuring" feel that this album carries throughout.

At only 23 minutes long, this album is Calories' self professed "punk album", but it truly is 23 minutes that you'll be listening to again and again; no song outstays it's welcome, and things are kept sounding fresh throughout. As the looped ending to "Forests Of Varg" plays out, you'll be (must avoid obviously reaching for repeat button review cliche) uurm, moving your mouse to click track one of this album in your iTunes again. So you hear it all again.

Calories - Adventuring can be bought from their myspace for £9, and comes with a 26 track bonus CD-R of demos and other tracks. This is what's called value for money! :D

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Stef Reviews... Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood

Kevin Devine, as I've mentioned before, is a fantastic singer songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. He's pretty much best friends with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra (His last album, Put Your Ghost To Rest, was reissued on Brand New's record label, Procrastinate! Music Traitors), and he releases album after album of clever, catchy indie rock songs. New album Brother's Blood follows this trend fantastically, whilst also treading darker, more epic, territories not previously heard.

The record kicks off with "All Of Everything, Erased", a simple sombre number that sets the tone of the record fantastically; dark, but catchy enough to whistle along to. This eventually subsides into "Carnival", an early highlight to the record. If it's possible to channel the spirit of blue album/pinkerton era Weezer into a song, then it's been done here, the song ambles forward in an almost lazy fashion, before all of a sudden, around the four minute, some absolutely genius backing vocals that sound like a party casually speaking the same lyrics that Kevin is singing, suddenly burst into a huge group vocal build up, screaming "you'll clutch your chest, and whisper oh no, what will i do", before the song suddenly lulls you into a false sense of security, before a wonderfully ramshackle ending, that leads fantastically into the second highlight of the record, previous limited edition single "Another Bag Of Bones", renamed here as "Time To Burn".

This song was amazing in it's original form, all insightful lyrics, and withdrawn muted guitars, but this version takes the song to it's limit, adding drums, bass and a brilliantly ethereal ending to affairs to truly create one of Kevin Devine's best songs so far. The song also has a bit of a "Jesus Christ" vibe to it (see: Brand New).

The vibe gets a bit more laid back with "Hand of God", a hand clap laden folkier song, that gives the listener a well deserved break before the absolutely epic "Brother's Blood", a guitar filled song, that features vocals that are absolutely filled to burst with emotion, and culminates in a huge ending, filled with guitar solos to order. "They don't need to know about my brother's blood" Kevin sings, with an almost defeated tone as the song fades away. Brilliant.

Other high points of the album are the wistful "It's Only Your Life", and the fantastically upbeat "I Could Be With Anyone", and the second half of album feels like a much calmer beast than the first half due to these more chilled out songs, which acts as a nice come down after the feel of the first five tracks.

For those of you who like Brand New, this guy is a must-hear. For everyone else...same rules apply.

You won't regret it!

Brother's Blood is released on April 28th via Favourite Gentleman Records.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

My O.C.

As a sidestep from music, I feel like I have to talk about real life for a bit.

I'm not sure how this entry is to start, I'm not sure how it will end, I'm not sure of a lot of things to do with this. I haven't even decided on whether I'll actually hit "Publish Post" when I've finished it. But let's try and begin this.

When someone effectively holds you in some kind of regard as being a potential start of a potential downfall in their own life, how are you meant to take it? I have always been the type of character that on the offchance that I have wronged someone, then I will apologise accordingly. And it's not often that I wrong someone, it's honestly not who I am 99% of the time. A friend of mine told me recently that apologising is a sign of weakness, and by apologising, you very rarely ever gain someones forgiveness. If anything, it just validates their reasons for feeling negative towards you even more. I can completely understand and sympathise with this theory, but it's not something I think I buy into. I've always been one for saying sorry when I feel it, whether that does me good or bad.

If you can remember back to the last time someone let you down, whether it was a loved one breaking up with you,  someone breaking a promise, someone not keeping a secret, would you let it affect the rest of your life? Of course you would. You'd be a bit more careful in future, you'd take the time to know someone better before trusting them absolute, right? Unfortunately, we live in a society where sleeping around is normal, promises aren't worth as much as they once were, and secrets are loosened from tongues with copious amounts of alcohol. (Disclaimer; I'm not one for sleeping around, I keep promises, and I never let secrets slip, just in case you thought I was talking from experience)

I think what I'm getting at, is that I can't understand the rationale of people sometimes. We all make mistakes, that one thing is for certain, but it's when our past mistakes are held over our heads by others, as some sort of twisted trophy, that I get confused. Recently, I was interrupted from a conversation by someone who felt the need to take the person I was talking to to one side, and warn them that I was an absolute prick of sorts. (back story, it was a friend of an ex-girlfriend, whom I'd never really spoke to before). I totally applaud this in a way; All he was doing was looking out for a friend. But he had never spoken to me before, didn't know anything about me, other than what someone with an incredibly low opinion of me had told him. This had a huge effect on me. It still plays on my mind now, that someone can have such an opinion of someone pushed upon them, and then that's all they know. I feel there are certain conversations I need to have in the near future to hopefully clear things of this nature up. And most importantly; the most useful source of information regarding me? It's me. So don't believe everything you hear? Primary research is better than secondary.

I've always believed that if you are happy in yourself then, well, you're doing alright. If you can be happy spending a day with just yourself as company, and don't end the day feeling miserable or depressed, then that's a good sign. Not to say you shouldn't spend time with friends or loved ones, but I have seen so many people recently in bad relationships just because they don't want to be alone. Is this the right way to be? We're built to be with others, but I'm a firm believer that there's got to be the right "other" out there, right?

I was berated for following my heart recently, and to be absolutely fair, I don't understand why. I listen to what my head tells me, don't get me wrong, but if my heart knows what it wants, I can't stop that. It's why my new EP is going to be titled Butterflies, it's why i've made mistakes in the past, it's why I am where I am now, and it's why I always aim to be a better person.

If i've hurt you in the past, then i'm sorry. None of us are perfect, none of us ever will be.

But i'm going to try and be better. And i'm going to do what my heart tells me. And if my brain is agreeing with my heart, then that's poetry.

(There's every chance I'll reread this in the morning and delete it for being a bit too .. something.  Honest? Not sure. Enjoy it while it's up)