Taylor_Swift_-_1989TITLE: 1989
ARTIST: Taylor Swift
LABEL: Big Machine
RELEASED: October 27th 2014

After a two year wait, the fifth Taylor Swift album is finally here. Her last album Red was the record that really made me take notice of Taylor and since its October 2012 release, it has become one of my favourite albums ever. So you’d think that Ms Swift had a lot to live up to in my eyes and indeed she did. However, I have developed a deep love for both her music and her personality over the last couple of years and I had little reason to believe that 1989 was going to be anything other than another amazing record.

The album’s lead single Shake It Off was released last month and it was the most solid evidence yet of Taylor’s departure from the country girl who began her career in 2006 at the tender age of 17. Of course, Red showcased the undeniable pop sound of We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together and 22 and indeed, Taylor’s albums have always shown a growing process that means she evolves with everything she puts out. 1989 is no different. This time, we see a more mysterious, quirky and synth-led pop sound. While writing the album, Taylor said last year: “There are probably seven or eight songs that I know I want on the record. It has already evolved into a new sound, and that’s all I wanted.” Confessing that she was inspired by late 80s pop such as Madonna and Annie Lennox while writing 1989, Taylor picked her birth year as the title saying: “There were a few artists in the late 80s who I think made the most incredible, bold, risky decisions as far as pop music goes. They were really ahead of their time.”

taylorswiftOpening with a vibrant exciting track called Welcome To New York, 1989 gets off to a youthful start which incorporates intricate synth patterns and a thumping electro beat. These are common motifs on the album and characterise Taylor’s new sound. Her vocals have an echo to them which is another continuing theme as is the ridiculously catchy melody. It moves on to Blank Space, which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The lyrics really show how far Taylor has come in the maturity process. Rather than gushing about how perfect a relationship will be, Blank Space suggests uncertainty about how things will pan out. This is obviously influenced by her romantic past and it has a much more realistic attitude to love than her earlier music. It has a simple beat and is very focused on the lyrics, which show a confident girl who has insecurities -something every fan listening will relate to.

Style has a funky riff and a disco-esque beat running through it with a chorus that no one will refuse a dance to. It’s about being part of a perfect power couple and has an infectious kooky slant that has a certain amount of darkness underneath it. Towards the end, Taylor’s vocals soar and it ends on an explosive rendition of the incredibly catchy chorus once again. Out Of The Woods is the perfect track for a live show as the chorus is a chant that simply has to be shouted en masse. The electro chimes, synths and breathy vocals suggested a little influence from Taylor’s friend Ellie Goulding and it could indeed sit on a Goulding album comfortably. There are lines which could only refer to One Direction’s ladies’ man Harry Styles who Taylor had a brief relationship with at the end of last year -“Your necklace round my neck… Two paper aeroplanes flying”, which is a nod to the matching necklaces that Taylor and Harry were seen wearing during their romance.

Another song about a broken relationship is All You Had To Do Was Stay, in which the lover wants her back. A rising electric shimmer kicks it off and a sweet girly melody carries it along. There is a catchy chanting hook that will no doubt make it a crowd pleaser and simple backing that again pushes the focus on to the lyrics and story. I Wish You Would is a song full of regret but set to a cheerful bubbly rhythm and beat. It’s fast-paced and kooky both in vocal delivery and backing with slower, dramatic choruses and catchy runs that reminded me of the uniqueness of Haim. It runs into Bad Blood, which is full of angst and darkness. The acapella opening is followed by a strong drum and low creeping vocals. It’s very simplistic but the venom in the lyrics is what shines through, giving it a strong dramatic place on the album.

Taylor also demonstrates her ethereal mystical side on Wildest Dreams which has echoes of another 80s pop legend Kate Bush. The eerie haunting synths and ghostly vocals with deep, feminine sighs put me in mind of Wuthering Heights. The atmosphere is so strong and mysterious and the images it paints are so pretty. This Love is a similar situation, where we see Taylor take us into a world of dreams and wonder on a cloud of peaceful riffs and strong dark drums. Her vocals are stripped right down to the simplest whispers but at times take off into the soundscape. This is before the darkness of I Know Places, which is all about the struggle to find privacy as a celebrity particularly when it comes to dating. A dark piano and stuttering vocals on the verse give way to the open ethereal chorus which is the gateway to the chilled atmospheric sound that the song adopts. It’s almost like it has found its own private place where no one can hunt it down and now it’s free to relax.

Yet more electronic synth work is displayed on How You Get The Girl, which is a must-listen guide for men everywhere. It has a laid-back summer vibe and is the closest that 1989 gets to the old Taylor Swift. However, the synths are still there and it’s an upbeat youthful track that would do well as a single. The closing track Clean is another favourite of mine. The synths take on a quirky clockwork vibe that exudes a certain magic. It’s about the end of a relationship that meant a great deal and the process of forgetting that person. The lyrics are wonderfully poetic and the weary sighs make it a relaxing track that is perfect for winding down to.

All in all, there are a few songs on 1989 that I really love and will definitely become regular plays for me. I do prefer Red as an album in its entirety as I love songs such as All Too Well and I Almost Do that have notes which are real belters. However, Taylor really can do little wrong in my opinion. Her new sound certainly suits her very well and is much more grown-up than the fairytale country-pop that she is best known for but who knows what the next Swift album will have in store?

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140904_AlbumCover_Outlines_ER_v6TITLE: Outlines
BAND: Hearts Under Fire
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: October 13th 2014

Without a doubt, this is the most anticipated release of the year for me. It is the first full-length Hearts Under Fire album and is the follow-up to 2012’s EP We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past. The wait has been too long and I am so excited to say that it is finally arriving on Monday. I posted an acoustic video of the band performing their latest single Knots and the track was a teaser for the album which really is worth the two year wait.

After first seeing this all-girl rock outfit live at the beginning of 2012 when they supported Illinois pop-punks Mest in East London, Hearts Under Fire sucked me into their crazy rock-on world and I’ve been a big fan of theirs ever since. Their previous EPs Letters and We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past were full of melodic choruses and crashing instrumentals that would hook onto your ears and never let go. Each of their previous releases have shown that Hearts Under Fire are great at the big loud alternative anthems as well as the soulful downbeat ballads and Outlines is a continuation of that.

Beginning with lead single Knots, it gets off to a kick-ass feminine start. Mary’s melodic vocals soar above the fuzzy guitars and tapping drums. So much soul and passion is thrown into the atmospheric single which features an explosive instrumental around the perfectly crafted lyrics. “My tongue is tied too tight, there are knots in my stomach. I just can’t cough it up or cut it out” is a feeling that so many people recognise and can relate to. It leads into the attitude-filled Colours with its soaring riffs and pop-punk rhythm. Slamming guitars and crashing drums match the haunting beautiful vocal which is echoed with Kitty’s backing. It’s a song that is full of emotion and spunk, which is ideal for singing along to when you’re feeling a bit angsty.

derekbremner.com 0889_Yet more passion is injected into the vocals on The Things You Do To Keep Yourself Amused, a fast and furious track full of girl power. Packed full of energy in the growling riffs and catchy rhythm, it’s another big punchy hit for the band. Sharks continues in the same vein with its mechanical guitar and steady drum. The vocals take on a darker, lower tone but fly again in the chorus. It’s a big pop-rock anthem with an instrumental including thumping drums and suspense-building guitars.

Another earworm on Outlines is Cry Baby. A fuzzy retro riff kicks it off and the vocal takes on a sultry slant over the top of the classic alternative rock guitar slides. The rhythm is full of old soul and on the chorus, the vocal has a great vintage soul tone to it. With the catchy hook, you’ll be singing along to it in no time. Ever the experts on writing songs that bury their way into your brain, False Hope is yet another one. Fierce drumming from Lexi and crashing metallic guitars from Nicky and Kitty back the gentle melody while giving way to the subtle harmonies.

Perhaps my favourite track on the album is This Can’t Be Love. The lyrics are so well written and illustrate exactly how it feels to be confused about your feelings for someone. “But you get me worked up, so intense. This can’t be love, it makes no sense. I can taste you on the tip of my tongue. Is this how we felt when we were young?” is possibly my favourite chorus on the album, purely because it’s so easy beautifully put. Added to that, the incredibly catchy dark riff that recurs throughout the track and it’s a very pretty, emotional track that has so much heart. It’s followed by the philosophical Serotonin Blues, which is begun with a frantic instrumental and taken on by another gravity defying vocal decorated with spiralling riffs.

The album comes to an explosive end with Lines and Slow It Down. Lines begins with a simple tap of the drumsticks and some loud and proud guitars. The vocals are offset with the instruments giving it a chaotic feel and there is a link back to the beginning of Knots with the reference to lines on the skin. The harmonies accompany the catchy hook and make it an atmospheric track that is perfect for crowd-pleasing. Closing with Slow It Down hints at a calm ending but it is in fact a solid rock anthem. Finishing as they started with ferocious instruments and impressive vocal licks, Hearts Under Fire have treated us to an album full of their signature angsty rock with the right amount of emotion and rawness.

So there are no swaying romantic ballads a la 1968 from their last EP on Outlines but it’s far from simply an angry series of digs at those that have wronged them. It’s an album full of songs that deal with a variety of issues that many people can relate to and it visits many different emotions from anger to fear to confusion and even heartbreak. Hearts Under Fire are a band who will always produce songs that resonate with me. I just hope it’s not too long to wait for another release!

Since forming possibly the most hyped pop-rock supergroup ever last year, McBusted are yet to release any new material under their new guise. After playing both Busted and McFly’s best-loved hits on their sell-out tour this spring, Air Guitar is the first official McBusted song to see the light of day. It will be released on November 23rd with a self-titled debut album to follow in December. A booming electronic fuzz and quirky squeaks back this gem of a pop song which follows the same vein as classic Busted tracks -nerd championing and having fun no matter how much of a loser you might be. Dig out your air guitar and rock along to it!

doctorwillseeyounowTITLE: The Doctor Will See You Now
BAND: A Higher Demise
LABEL: Ambicon Records
RELEASED: September 15th 2014

I’m surprised I haven’t come across A Higher Demise before, as this five-piece are from Dartford which is actually pretty close to where I live. They probably are slightly heavier than the bands I love the most but having been around since 2012, I’m surprised that their latest EP is the first I’ve heard from them. They’ve already drawn comparisons to Bring Me The Horizon and been played on various independent radio stations with several rave reviews from blogs and music magazines.

I’m not a fan of Bring Me The Horizon and regular readers will know how much I love a good alternative rock band who happen to have an insanely talented vocalist. Screamo has definitely never been something I’ve enjoyed listening to and I normally skip songs by bands I love that use it. However, A Higher Demise incorporate it in a way that gives me a lot to consider and for that, I thank them for not subjecting me to an EP full of someone repeatedly screaming angst into my ear.

ahigherdemiseThe Doctor Will See You Now is their first official EP and features five songs which are incredibly unique in that I’ve yet to hear a band who so clearly appear to have a multi-personality sound. It begins with My Therapist Knows You By Name which opens with fast tapping melodic guitars and is then injected with a demonic vocal. At this point, my stomach did sink a bit but as I began to think about what sort of slant I could put on the review, a beautiful alternative rock vocal appeared, which battled it out with the screams as they traded lines throughout the frantic angry monster of a song. Before I knew it, we were onto the next track and I was incredibly intrigued about what the band were going to do next.

All These Reasons opened with some pretty harmonies and a simple guitar full of suspense, which was then pierced with the growl of the scream. The metallic riffs contrasted the sound of the vocals and gave it a really interesting clashing effect. The melodic vocals returned with the darkness of the screams running underneath and I began to wonder exactly what A Higher Demise were illustrating here. The thundering drums and dainty synth-esque guitars also suggested at a clear depiction of both the light and dark within people and indeed music.

Perhaps a more relaxed song is Here We Go Again, although it is still in keeping with the angst that we’ve already heard. The swaying motion of the track is married with the growling guitars and angry screams and it’s almost like two songs are playing at the same time. Being able to pull this off is something that I’ve never heard another band do and I have nothing but praise for them for doing it. The screamo is there as a constant shadow on the otherwise traditional alternative rock sound and its presence is something that makes me think that it’s there for a reason other than just clashing together the two different vocals simply because they can.

It’s A Trap is my favourite track instrumentally as the haunting chimes which ripple underneath throughout it are the perfect delicate background. The scream seems to leap on us suddenly and takes us off into a loud energetic moshpit anthem. There are classic metal guitar bursts and swaying melodic vocals which seem to get caught up in the storm but the consistent haunted feel runs through the track and it’s a further clue that A Higher Demise’s sound is perhaps possessed by the demon that keeps fighting with the vocal to be heard.

Ending on Over And Over, which sees the appearance of a female vocal which I’m assuming is provided by bassist Rachael. The growing guitar fuzz at the beginning is followed by fast tapping drums and the explosions of the riff are followed by pretty pop-punk-esque vocals merged with the screams. The female vocal adds another dimension to the band’s style and makes Over And Over a unique track on an already unique EP. It’s undeniably catchy and the ringing riffs and gorgeous harmonies dominating suggest that perhaps good always wins over evil.

I’m unsure whether A Higher Demise purposefully created a concept EP that combines both good and evil but it’s what I took from The Doctor Will See You Now. The title of the EP suggests to me that it is possessed and the songs within it certainly seem to be haunted by an evil presence, which is clear in the demonic screams that constantly make themselves known. It’s definitely something that everyone should listen to as I think it might be a record that gives something different to each individual it reaches and it was this that made my listening experience thoroughly enjoyable!

starsarealignedTITLE: Stars Are Aligned
BAND: Darlia
LABEL: B-Unique Records
RELEASED: October 27th 2014

Last year, I introduced this trio of alternative rockers from Blackpool to you and I’m now pleased to say that a new single from them is on the way. Darlia are still a young band whose success seems to be growing by the months. Sitting comfortably amongst alternative rock giants at Glastonbury and the Reading and Leeds festivals this summer, Darlia have come a long way in the last year. With two sold-out UK tours under their belt already, their new single Stars Are Aligned comes at a great time for them.

After the new single got the approval of Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, frontman Nathan Day has said of the track: “Everything that we’ve done so far, is shaping our own future. I’ve always known that it’s not going to happen the way that I want it to go, until we release the songs that I want to release – so this is one of them, and I’m very proud of it.”

darliaStars Are Aligned kicks off with a solid mechanical drum and lingering riff, which is swiftly joined by Nathan’s unpolished Brit-pop drawl. It’s a simple rhythm with a catchy chorus, which is packed full of energy and roughly joined-together phrases. Plenty of frayed edges adorn the single and Darlia’s style really shines through depicting them to be a band who care little about anything but their music. There are hints at a pop-punk structure to the song but the dirty surface of the song keep it from being pigeonholed.

Dark lyrics and falling crashing instruments give it an air of destruction but the words hold an optimism for the end. The notion of stars being aligned is an acceptance of the existence of fate and knowing that your time has come. It’s not an easy song to pin down an interpretation of and as such, it’s abstract enough to draw your own conclusions. Either way, the song itself is an explosion which is perfect for unleashing to a live audience.

Have a listen to it below and keep an ear out for future Darlia releases as they’re certainly going to be driving a new version of alternative rock within the near future.

kendrick-lamar-iTITLE: i
ARTIST: Kendrick Lamar
LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment
RELEASED: September 23rd 2014

He had a great year last year and Californian rapper Kendrick Lamar appears to be continuously rising up the ranks of hip hop. Influenced by big names such as Jay-Z, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G, Kendrick has always aimed high and channelled his own brand of creative energy into his songs. Due to this, I have to say that I do enjoy his music and recognise him as a frontrunner within the genre.

His last release Good Kid m.A.A.d City was a regular on best albums of 2012 lists and clinched the top spot of Pitchfork’s, BBC’s and Complex’s lists. Early last year, MTV awarded him the accolade Hottest MC In The Game and he won a MOBO for Best International Artist. This year he received seven Grammy nominations and his status is rapidly accelerating with the dawn of his new album approaching. Don’t expect many other artists to make appearances though. KenKendrick-Lamardrick has stated: “I have so much to say. It’s almost selfish of me.” There is no official release date yet but latest single i is the first taster of what is to come and it looks set to be an upbeat record with plenty of catchy hooks.

Sampling 70s soul hit That Lady by The Isley Brothers, i mixes the classic cheerful rhythm with Kendrick’s slick lyrics. A lonely guitar whines along in the background while Kendrick discovers his inner Kanye and delivers the chorus “I love myself” as we’re left to bathe in the retro beat. It is undeniably catchy and will have everyone screaming with self-confidence and declaring their greatness (maybe!). Eventually, it reverts to a heavier electronic sound with a throbbing bass and techno whizzes complete with angry car horns and offbeat electro wiggles to end.

There are darker undertones which are most obvious in the second half but it is a very honestly happy song. Lovers of old school happy music will appreciate Kendrick giving us something to smile about and a damn earworm of an instrumental to go with it. Have a listen right here!

janetdevlinsingleTITLE: Creatures Of The Night
ARTIST: Janet Devlin
LABEL: Insomnia Music Records
RELEASED: September 22nd 2014

Former X Factor contestants quite often seem to fall off the face of the earth once they leave the show, sometimes even winners, but every now and then, a special case will show itself still going strong in the music business. Janet Devlin, who finished fifth place in the 2011 series, is just that. Aged just 16, Janet entertained us every Saturday night with her quirky hippy vibe and beautiful unique voice treating us to renditions of Sweet Child Of Mine and Fix You.

Through weeks 2 to 5 of the live shows, Janet received the most public votes, winning British hearts everywhere with her kooky Irish charm. Since then, she has been busy in the studio and has written with many accomplished songwriters, as well as Newton Faulkner who co-wrote her latest single Creatures Of The Night. It is on her debut album Running With Scissors which was released in June this year.

janetdevlinSticking to her upbeat folk style, Creatures Of The Night comprises of a simple catchy rhythm made of acoustic strumming and soft drumming. Janet’s hypnotising vocals trickle over the top of the instruments in a shimmering fashion which match the magical feel of the song. Her voice is unmistakeable and although the song itself is a typical pop-folk track not dissimilar to those we’ve heard before, Janet’s whimsy tones are exactly what gives it the charisma and personality that make it memorable.

There’s no denying that it is incredibly catchy and it’s the perfect antidote if you’re feeling miserable about the arrival of autumn as it will certainly remind you of chilled-out summer parties. It is a little sparse on lyrics so after a couple of listens, you’ll already be singing along to the whole thing and tapping your feet to the cheerful instruments. It probably won’t be heard by many ears due to it being released via an independent label but Janet is the kind of artist who makes music for herself rather than the fame. However, Creatures Of The Night is a song that I’ll be singing for a long time and is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of all who hear it.

Illustrated and animated by Gary Dumbill, the video suits the song perfectly and will no doubt warm you up with joy this coming season.

 

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