Last year I had a very clear winner for my album of the year. It was Keith in Ballachulish by The Dawdler. It remains a firm favourite of mine to this day getting regular spins on the turntable. The Dawdler is songwriter John Edgar from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. You may be familiar with his name from bands such as Okay Champ, EAT FAST and Nately’s Whore Kid Sister. In these bands Johns music is slightly more on the heavy experimental side. His music as the Dawdler is something more fragile, meandering and unique.
John returns with a new single ‘Lava Lamps’. It is a beautiful track full of the gentle and intensely emotional melodies that his previous work has been lauded for. The song, however, couches a darker, sadder story. In 2015, Johns friend, Ewan, took his own life. Not so long ago he wrote this song about him. More broadly, it’s about grief, loss and mental health issues.
Suicide and mental health are huge, devastating issues. Services that work to help those in need and raise awareness in society need support. I’m sure most people reading this will have been affected by mental health issues and/or suicide in some way.
John wants to use the song to try to raise as much money as possible for the mental health charities/services Mind and Breathing Space.
Bursting out of El Paso, Texas come Eep with their debut album Death of a Very Good Machine. This is a band with a story to tell, a message for the listener. One which repeats throughout this album. A message bore out from the life experience of founding member Rosie Varela. Quite simply, that message is, don’t give up. Ever!
The album opens with the majestic lead single ‘Hogar’ Spanish for Home. This is a love song to Rosie’s husband; Justin and you can feel the love that has been poured into every second of this track. The song is punctuated with some exceptional drumming from Lawrence Brown which rises and falls with the dynamic production. Rosie’s angelic voice floats above it all reminding me of Liz Fraser in her prime.
After that pacy start we take it down a gear for the brooding ‘Canal’. There is an almost volcanic feel to this song. Like something is there, underneath, just waiting to erupt. The vocal interplay between Rosie and Serge is magical and at times reminds me of early Sigur Ros. The call and response is really eerie and beautiful at the same time.
After a short segue we emerge into the title track pulsing and fully formed. The circular vocals from Rosie, Ross Ingram and Sebastian Estrada are wonderfully disorienting, leaving the listener giddy by the time the song peaks and sputters out on a flourish of static and feedback.
There’s no time to waste as we launch headlong into the swaggering grace of ‘When It Was Over’. I love how the guitars weave together forming a sonic sea that the song sails effortlessly over. There’s something infinitely comforting about this song. I defy anyone not to feel immediately soothed and relaxed after listening to it.
Next up is the second single from the album ‘Outlast You’. This is a storming out and out rock song bathed in reverb and fuzz-soaked guitar. A song written as a retort after Rosie was told that she was too old to form a band. This monster of a track blows that misconception out the water. Everything is supersize here. The riffs are huge, drums pounding, vocals are dominating. Rosie especially owns this song. I can see this being a live favourite with the fans.
After the frenetic rush of the last track we relax into ‘Breathless’. This is where we see Eep playing to their real strength, working as a team. With Serge Carrasco and Ross taking the call and response of what I’d call the core vocals, Rosie brings her mellifluous and glacial vocal in on top. This creates a wonderful structure to hang the song on. Add to the mix some beautifully reverbed, chiming guitars and some world class drumming and you have a perfect song. This has become my album highlight after many listens.
The quality remains sky high as the ghostly intro to ‘Can’t Keep Hurting’ appears. There’s something about this track that will keep listeners interest for many many plays. Is it the exquisite guitar parts, clever bass and drum interplay, the way the chorus just sneaks up on you? I just don’t know and I’ve listened to this track a lot. All I know is every time I play it, I get lost in its many layers and am always surprised when it segues into the final track on the album.
‘Closer’ with its minimalist and charming production brings the albums to an end in a perfect way. After the head spinning complexity of the previous tracks the counter play between the grounded guitar line and Rosie’s subdued vocals really help us decompress and absorb all we have heard.
In Death of a Very Good Machine Eep have given us all hope. A belief that despite all the obstacles life puts in our way that the good will out. This album deserves a place in your home, in your heart. If you let this music in you will be rewarded hundredfold with each listen.
Death of a Very Good Machine is available from the Eep Bandcamp page digitally, on CD and Limited-Edition white vinyl.
Nominees for my album of the year just keep piling up. Adding to the list this week are New York based duo Laveda with their sparkling debut album What Happens After. I discovered this band on the recent DKFM DreamGaze III event where I was bowled over by their vocal interplay and harmonies. Little was I to know the treat I had in store when their album hit my inbox.
The album opens on some beautifully strummed acoustic chords not unlike early Bon Iver. However, that is only a momentary distraction as we launch into the noise driven, perfect storm of ‘Ghost’. This song strikes the perfect balance between that wall of sound we all like and the hooks and beats and ups and downs of a perfect pop song.
‘Better Now’ arrives on the dying wash of the final waves from ‘Ghost’. This is a different animal altogether. A driving drum machine carries angelic vocals from Ali Genevich countered by Jake Brooks heavily effected vocals in the chorus. The guitars sound amazing on this track switching from glossy chiming parts to the shimmering fuzz of the outro.
The experimental sound collage of ‘CND’ is next. An eerie voice over talking of Americas obsession with nuclear war plays against a backdrop of sweeping synths and punchy guitars. An urgent drum beat kicks in half way through bringing things up a further notch. This is the sound of a band having fun.
As far as killer intro’s goes ‘Rager’ has that one owned. When I eventually get to see them live this will be the track that gets crowd moving. Jake and Ali sing with each other throughout adding to the energy and power behind this song. It’s the guitars here that rage, as the song speaks of mankind heading to its self-made destruction. “Now it’s on fire. There’s nowhere left to wander. Soon everyone dies, we’ll never find another”. This is a powerful song which cleverly juxtaposes a frenetic and upbeat track to some really quite bleak lyrics.
‘L’ was the first recorded track I heard from the band. Straight off I was mesmerised by the production values and the killer chorus on show here. This song has an unmistakable Wolf Alice vibe about it, which is high praise indeed. The band make great use of dynamics to build the song towards that killer of a chorus. Jake and Ali take turns on the verses to great effect. This track will be getting a lot of radio play.
Catchy choruses aren’t in short supply thankfully. On ‘Dream.Sleep.’ We are treated to a piece of song writing genius. This song is built from three very distinct sections, all of which build towards a jubilatory instrumental break which could have come from that favourite 80’s high school coming of age movie you love. Ali is on fire here. Delivering a vocal performance which deserves recognition. Somebody give her an award please!! The soaring chorus will have you on your feet and dancing, kissing all your worries goodbye.
‘If Only (You Said No) steps down the pace considerably without it stepping out of sync with the overall vibe of the album. A strummed acoustic intro leads a ballad awash with stunning synths and samples. For me this stripped back song perfectly showcases what made me fall for this band in the first place. The vocals, Perfectly matched and stunning harmonising. It’s a hint of what’s to come later on, more on that later.
We are back in super bright, technicolour pop territory next with ‘Child’. A glorious, widescreen stormer showcasing Jakes tremendous voice. Listening to this song feels like driving at breakneck speed with the top down. Utterly exhilarating.
That leads us to my album highlight, the reason I had to explore this album, ‘Blue Beach’. Where do I start with this quite breath-taking track? I mentioned earlier about how perfectly matched Jake and Ali’s voices are and its here, on this song, we see what they are truly capable of. We begin softy with tinkling wind chimes and sounds of the waves on the beach. Then the song envelopes us. It’s immediate. Once you have heard that intro you know this is going to be special. Jake leads us slowly to the chorus where Ali steps in and everything comes into sharp focus. The harmonies along with the ever-developing backing track lead us ever on through this track. When the strings come in on the final chorus there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
Final track ‘color’ uses the strings from ‘Blue Beach’ and develops the theme with some spoken word lyrics from Ali. A fitting book end to this record easing us out.
I really connected with this album. You can tell from the lyrical content, from the detailed arrangements of these amazing songs that Laveda care. That is what felt from the first listen. That is what I still feel now after umpteen play throughs. If you care, maybe you should give Laveda a listen too.
What Happens After is available now. Click here to find out where is nearest you.
Dirty Filthy Records have been releasing some amazing records over the last year. They have done it again with the latest addition to their roster. Par Ásito and their fourth full length album Singularity.
Par Ásito come from Guadalajara, Mexico, and they combine space rock, post rock, shoegaze and a passion for space exploration into something quite unique
The album opens with the shimmering, probing ‘Accretion Disc’. Like a rocket taking off this track builds and accelerates until we are launched into the cosmos. ‘Relativistic Jets’ is my album highlight next. It starts pacey and you can envision the band on board their intergalactic space ship, hurtling through hyperspace, as this plays in the background. I can imagine this track inspiring a mosh pit when they play it live.
‘Photo Sphere’ is an altogether darker track. While maintaining the pace of ‘Relativistic Jets’ it is an altogether different behemoth. Like a sci-fi Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, it is the sound of space battles if ever I’ve heard them.
‘Event Horizon’ is the album focal piece. A sprawling 13-minute epic it pins this album together thematically. It starts off with a disorienting jam echoing the slow descent into a black hole. When we hit the event horizon the song goes widescreen and we build to a static filled crescendo. A breath-taking listen start to finish.
The album closes with the title track. Another builder of a track but this time we are flying out of that black hole at speeds never before seen by man. This track is intense. Bass and drums pummel at your head as the band thrash out the perfect finale for this album.
It amazing that this music is created by a power trio. The depth and breadth of the music suggests otherwise. As the band themselves say, when spaceship chases begin in the galaxy, Par Ásito will be the soundtrack.