There’s just too much music in the world. I can’t listen to it all. Why should I bother? You might think be thinking such thoughts as the seemingly endless stream of fairly average music spews all over the internet. It’s a good job you’ve got me then, isn’t it. Loads of releases to get through today. A lot of different genres. There’s something for everything.
Next to None – A Light in the Dark
Watch the video for ‘Blood On My Hands’ below
This band features Max Portnoy, son of Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. Max and the rest of the band are 15 or 16. Some reviews of this record I’ve read are quite snide in saying that the age, or lack of experience, of the band members tells. I think this is nonsense. This is straight-up high quality progressive metal. Throughout, Max’s drums are stellar. So much nuance in the playing. The songwriting throughout is killer too. Opener ‘The Edge of Sanity’ is a strong start, with effervescent instrumental solo-ing and a great hook of a chorus. The genre might be somewhat esoteric, but if progressive metal is your thing then Next To None are a band you need to watch out for.
Motopony – Welcome You
Watch the video for ‘Get Down (Come Up’ below
Daniel Blue, lead singer of Motopony, has one of those voices. It is instantly reognisable. It can turn its hand (or should that be voice, I don’t know) seemingly to any genre or style of song and give it a beauty, an intensity, a vulnerability, that other, often much-vaunted singers just can’t reach. This is a welcome return for the band, now featuring new members and something of a new sound, following a long wait from their splendidly woozy self-titled album. Whereas that record was marked by an almost spectral beauty and the electronics of erstwhile colleague Buddy Ross, this album takes much more of a 70s glam stomp approach to proceedings. The first half of the album is dominated by fuzzed out guitars, competing with Blue’s caterwauling vocal to splendid effect. This is Motopony but not as we knew it. As he sings “Life, in 1971, I wanna be there, I wanna have fun” it is clear that Daniel Blue and his cohorts have got as close to living in 1971 as it is possible for a bunch of bearded wonders in 2015 to manage. One listen to this joyful summer record and you’ll be wanting to join them.
Vennart – The Demon Joke
Watch the lyric video for ‘Don’t Forget the Joker’ below
It’s wrong, isn’t it, that one of the first things I notice about Mike Vennart, live guitarist for Biffy Clyro, member of British Theatre, former member of Oceansize and now solo troubadour extraordinaire, is that he has grey hair. Yes, yes it is wrong. I have grey hair too. I also have a lot less talent than Mike Vennart. I’m just jealous.
If you like any of the aforementioned bands, or you like your guitar rock literate and inventive one minute and crushingly heavy the next, this is an album for you. Time signatures change all over the place, like its effortless. It isn’t. The songs are chock full of hooks. Just watch the video above and tell me you can’t remember the chorus by the end. More than that, though, it just rocks. ‘Retaliate’ is a muscular song with a buzz-saw riff and a skyscraper of a chorus. ‘Infatuate’ explodes into a glorious groove and when the release of the chorus hits it feels just like people tell me Opium does.
It takes a special musician to marry progressive technicality with pop song structures and hooky riffs, but Vennart manages this to a tee. Don’t miss this record.
Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool
Watch the video for ‘Giant Peach’ below
It feels almost superfluous to write about Wolf Alice and their debut album, “My Love is Cool”. You might have seen them at Glastonbury last weekend. You’ve probably heard or read people swooning and raving about them. The album has quickly garnered the status of being the most exciting British guitar music debut of the year. There is an assuredness about the band, and the album, that makes it plain that they know that stardom beckons. So, what of the record, is it worth giving in to the hype and giving Wolf Alice a chance?
Well, in a word, yes. This is a beautifully-constructed, shoegaze-leaning album. Songs like ‘Bros’ will work splendidly on the radio but serve notice of their explosive potential in the live setting. ‘Lisbon’ begins taut before, in point of fact, exploding. The song does this twice. It is exhilarating. There’s really no other word to describe the evocative nature of the visceral and yet intensely melodic coda at the song’s climax.
Elsewhere, ‘Swallowtail’ and ‘Soapy Water’ show a more considered and nuanced side to the band. At times it feels like Wolf Alice are a band yet to truly settle down in to their final identity. While they’re figuring it out, it’s a lot of fun being a fly on the wall.
Son Lux – Bones
Watch the Video for ‘You Don’t Know Me’ below
With Son Lux freshly expanded to a three-piece, the seemingly boundless compositional creativity of main man Ryan Lott has a fresh scope and impetus. “Bones” is a gorgeous album. ‘Change is Everything’ is the closest thing there has ever been to a Son Lux single to my ears, a spine-tingling moment on an album of tingle-inducing moment. ‘Flight’, with its (synthesised?) flutes, gives the listener a real sense of, well, flying. “Are we now what we’ll be, are we fixed or free?” Lott asks. This is music which feels free, free to explore the recesses of the possibilities of orchestrally-infused electronica. It’s the kind of music that is so intricate, layered perfectly realised that it has the potential to cause the head-shaking wonderment of other musicians, if not their outright retirement.
Elsewhere, the rolling percussion of ‘Undone’ as it breaks down into a bossa nova slink and then continues upon its merry, rolling way, is a contrary centrepiece for the album. We might not know what it is trying to be, but Son Lux are in constant and complete control. Just follow meekly after them. It’s for your own good.
Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Listen to ‘Sweet Ivy’ below
This is the debut full-length album from Mutoid Man. This band features members of Cave in (Stephen Brodsky) and Converge (Ben Koller and Nick Kagaeo). If you don’t like your music hard and fast, with hints of melody, then you should probably move along;. If you’re still with me, then we’re on to something special here.
I must be one of the only people still allowed to post on the internet who thought that Cave In’s album for major label RCA, “Antenna” was something of a masterpiece. Apparently if you like the band you have to hate it, which is a shame, as I really quite like it. It blended heavy pop-rock (herein lay the problem, I believe) with progressive passages, and enough aggression to make you sit up and take notice. Cave In toured with Foo Fighters. They played them off the stage, and then sank without trace. This was unfortunate.
All of which to say, I was pre-disposed to liking “Bleeders”, in spite of the fact that it is a lot faster and harder than anything on “Antenna”. Brodsky’s crystal clear melodic vocals remain intact. He really has a fantastic set of pipes. Throughout the riffs are intricate, yet accessible. The experience of these guys shines through. They sound like they’re having fun, but also at great pains to show that they can really play. It’s not right to single out individual tracks. This is the best punk/post-hardcore album of the year. Nothing else will come close. Mutoid Man are an exciting, potentially important band.