royalbloodalbumTITLE: Royal Blood
BAND: Royal Blood
LABEL: Warner Bros Records
RELEASED: August 25th 2014

Back in May, I went to see Arctic Monkeys play in Finsbury Park, London and Royal Blood were a support act although I didn’t see much of them. However, the Sheffield indie kings have been fans of theirs since the beginning with drummer Matt Helders wearing a Royal Blood t-shirt before they’d even released their debut single Out Of The Black.

So who are they? Royal Blood are singer and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher from Brighton. Gaining early recognition, they were nominated for BBC’s Sound Of 2014 award but lost out to Sam Smith. Now with their debut self-titled album released, Royal Blood look set to make big waves in the second half of the year.

The album kicks off with first single Out Of The Black, an energetic alternative rock introduction. Slamming drums, plenty of guitar fuzz and Mike’s drawling indie vocal characterises them to a tee. The darkness oozes through in the instruments and with its catchy rhythm, it’s ideal for playing live and causing some serious frenzy amongst gig-goers. It’s followed by its B-side Come On Over which has arguably the catchiest chorus on the album. A fast fuzzy guitar and mechanical rhythm give it bags of sex appeal and the tricky guitar whines become as commonplace as the hook “So come on over”.

royalbloodRoyal Blood have earned themselves comparisons to The White Stripes and on Figure It Out, it becomes clear as to why. Mike’s vocals do enter the whimsical area that Jack White so often frequents and with the song’s quirky rhythm and an electronic-metallic hybrid of a guitar, there are some definite resemblances. In comes the familiar staccato guitar along with some thundering drum rolls to introduce You Can Be So Cruel. Here, a more calm melancholy vocal is adopted while the throbbing beat on the chorus adds to the spooky atmosphere created by the creeping rhythm.

Halfway through is a stripped back interlude named Blood Hands. A simple riff exposes the vocals and a soft drum grounds them as they soar through the melody. An ominous guitar seems to pursue it before an explosive instrumental leaves the listener feeling pumped for the second half of the album and in a dream-like state thanks to the atmosphere created. Wake up to second single Little Monster as it’s a huge festival track that features dark grinding instruments and quirky lyrics with a huge catchy chorus. Alternative mechanical riffs power it along as does a steady constant drum.

The White Stripes similarities continue in Loose Change with a spiralling rock guitar and Mike’s vocals taking on a kooky falsetto vibe. Halfway through it kicks up a gear with a shift in the drums and the passion in the vocals is allowed to really shine through. Another quirky alternative rock song is Careless which is based on strong drums and a dark guitar with a whining riff interlaced over the top. A catchy riff interjects each vocal line in the chorus and the rise and fall of the song is something that works great on stage. No doubt it will be a great crowd-pleaser!

Perhaps the most dramatic song on the album is Ten Tonne Skeleton. Crashing drums and a bouncing screeching riff keep repeating throughout the track and the pace of it resembles a wild beast on a hunt. It’s dark and dangerous with a whimsical haunting interlude with choral sounds at the two minute mark before reverting back to the screeching riff. It’s weird but wonderful and is certainly the most interesting song artistically. The album ends on Better Strangers, a song that encompasses all that Royal Blood are about. The staccato steady drum, magical shimmers from cymbals and the fuzzy guitar back up the drawling sexy vocals that we heard at the beginning of the album. It is a little bit Band Of Skulls-esque but with a more theatrical feel. It’s darker and more serious than any recent indie-alternative band have delivered before.

On their debut album, Royal Blood have given us a plethora of high-energy, at times strange, alternative rock songs. Of course, we can see influences from various other bands in the genre but they’re certainly not re-branding what we’ve heard a million times over. Songs like Come On Over and Little Monster are sure-fire hits that have a unique edge to them. A valiant first effort from the duo who have been named as the biggest alternative hopes of the year.

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runthejewelsblockbusterTITLE: Blockbuster Night Pt.1
ARTIST: Run The Jewels
LABEL: Mass Appeal Records
RELEASED: August 21st 2014

It isn’t often that I feature hip hop on the blog because I’m not generally a big fan of it but a new release that has hit the scene is Run The Jewels’ latest drop Blockbuster Night Pt.1. The duo comprised of New York rapper El-P and his Georgia-born friend Killer Mike also announced their upcoming album RTJ2, which will be released for free on October 28th. RTJ2 is said to see guest performances from Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and Rage Against The Machine singer Zack de la Rocha.

Their debut self-titled album was released last year and was also free for download following the success of debut single Get It. Blockbuster Night Pt.1 is the first clue as to what the rest of the second album holds and it promises to be another fierce snarling beast of a record.

runthejewelsA thumping bass and shivering electronic crashes make up the backing with a futuristic theme. The two rappers take turns to deliver fast-paced brutal verses that will no doubt get fans excited for the rest of the album. Electronic wobbles and a steady flow keep the track powering along a short burst which ends on the note “But I ain’t here for durations, I’m just taking vacations and tell ‘em f*ck ‘em, I never loved ‘em and salutations”. Although I’m not a fan of hip hop, I can certainly appreciate their rhythm and style.

El-P has jokingly stated that “We can make no promises about the safety of any animals involved in the creation of this record” while Killer Mike claims that it is the greatest rap collaboration since their first album. Have a listen to Blockbuster below and decide for yourself!

 

The Buckinghamshire five-piece have taken some time out over the last year and are now back with a single that shows a shift in sound for Young Guns. Their last album Bones reached number one in the UK last year and its slamming alternative sound was reminiscent of Lostprophets whose demise required someone to fill the gap, which Young Guns seemed to do. However, their new single I Want Out hints at a more dance-indie style much like The Killers for their third album, which is set to be released early next year. A catchy chorus, soaring vocals and flickering electronic riffs, this is a new age for a band who had a great 2013. Watch the video for I Want Out below!

It has already had some early mixed reviews with some describing it as ill-timed in the wake of the Ferguson riots in MIssouri which began after police shot dead an urarmed black teen but there is no denying the catchy upbeat nature of Taylor Swift’s new single Shake It Off. Maintaining her quirky outspoken style, Taylor sticks two fingers up to her haters and comes out with a video that parodies herself as much as it does anything else. Those who accuse the video of any racism or prejudice need to realise that Swift has always been very self-aware. She knows that she isn’t considered one of the coolest artists in the industry. In my opinion, the fact that she can laugh at that always makes her the bigger person. Shake It Off is the first glimpse of Taylor’s upcoming album 1989, which will be released in October.

i-can-see-you-nowTITLE: I Can See You Now
BAND: Signed In Crimson
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: June 18th 2014

I mentioned Signed In Crimson in my review of Dystopia, the debut novel by Anthony Ergo who is the bassist of this female-fronted alternative band. Their debut EP I Can See You Now is the first glimpse of their work and it follows the demise of their previous project. This is the North West rock band’s strong, punchy revival and with an established fanbase behind them, Signed In Crimson is destined for success. With the abbreviation “Sic” meaning “as it is written”, the band build on strong friendship and musical talent to deliver high energy, emotional rock anthems.

As a lover of female rock stars, the beautiful tones of frontwoman Micki Consiglio is the stand-out feature for me. Of course, she is backed by strong, powerful alternative musicians and the result is a fierce passionate sound that is full of dark metallic riffs and beautiful lyrics. Judging by their first effort, Signed In Crimson are a band who are set to overhaul female alternative rock.

The first track Just Maybe opens with a staccato fuzzy riff and soft whispery vocal. The darkness grows and Micki’s melodic vocals trickle through the growling instruments. The catchy chorus has a touch of Evanescence to it but with a more upbeat vibe. A death scream at the end gives it a haunting end as it flows into Imposter.

signedincrimsonImposter has quirky, mechanical squeaks which continue to crop up throughout the song. Dark drums and a guitar with an electro feel back up the pretty ghostly vocal. There are some beautiful runs in the voice and it has a great live show feel. The lyrics are kooky and catchy while the strong staccato guitar at the end finishes it off.

Blame On Us begins with soft guitar tones and a bouncing electro riff over the top. A metallic riff then spirals through and behind the drawling vocals. A steady drum and bass provide the basis while the vocals adopt a strong, no-nonsense attitude. Another catchy chorus makes it a real crowd pleaser while the slamming of the instruments give it real oomph.

Perhaps the most empowering song is Not Who I Am. It’s about breaking free from control and being who you really are. Simple strumming and a steady drum with a snarling staccato riff couple the upbeat melodic chorus. Micki spits out the lyrics at a fast pace to a catchy chorus followed by a singing guitar solo.

My favourite track on the EP is its closing track Glow. A soft guitar and gentle vocals accompany a slow steady bass and barely-there drum. It’s a beautiful swaying ballad that is full of magic and gorgeous vocal runs. There are some really touching similes in the lyrics and it’s almost as if it is speaking to the listener. It’s incredibly uplifting and a beautiful way to end a debut EP.

Signed In Crimson look set to be future hitmakers and their EP is testament to their superb songwriting skills. Plenty of dark energy flows through their songs and the vocals are second to none. It is a must listen for fans of Evanescence, Paramore and other female-fronted rock bands. As a lover of female singers, they may well be one of my favourite unsigned acts that I’ve discovered recently.

flawless-beyonce-nicki-minajTITLE: Flawless (Remix)
ARTISTS: Beyonce, Nicki Minaj
LABEL: Columbia
RELEASED: August 4th 2014

An unexpected collaboration dropped this week as Beyonce teamed up with Nicki Minaj to produce a remix of Flawless, the original of which appears on Beyonce’s headline-grabbing self-titled album which was released at the end of last year. Making big waves in the rap scene, the single is a big statement in itself. Beyonce has her say on that incident between her sister and her husband earlier this year and Minaj puts a different spin on the track,
whilst sounding better than she has in a long time.

Minaj also rebeynickileased her new single Anaconda this week but she says of the Beyonce collaboration “She told me, ‘I want you to be you. I don’t want you to hold back.'” Nicki’s verse references Michael Jackson’s death and both hers and Beyonce’s A-list status, allowing her to reclaim her hip hop crown. The remix also sees Beyonce rapping which isn’t something that we’re used to but her perfect vocal runs are also there.

The hook is all about female empowerment and women looking and feeling good. “We flawless, ladies tell ‘em, I woke up like this… Say I look so good tonight” is full of female confidence that reminds us how Beyonce has earned her Queen Bey status. Another line that is definitely noteworthy is “Of course sometimes shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator” which is a nod to the scuffle between Solange Knowles and Jay-Z at the Met Gala in May. What the “billion dollars” refers to isn’t certain but it could suggest that the reason for the argument was to do with Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s marriage and estimated $1 billion fortune.

A strong electro beat and slow sensual rhythm backs up the explosive verses which gives way to horn blasts from an unexpected sample of Outkast’s SpottieOttieDopaliscious. Ending on Nicki’s impressive verse, the remix comes to an aggressive, defiant finish. It’s a track that is full of power and strong content which is delivered by two outspoken, inspirational female artists. A big contender for the feminist anthem of the year!

guardians-of-the-galaxy-movie-posterTITLE: Guardians Of The Galaxy
STARS: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
RELEASED: July 31st 2014

As one of the most anticipated film releases of the year, Marvel’s latest blockbuster had a lot to live up to. I’m not normally a huge lover of sci-fi and superhero films but the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy did draw me in. A star-studded cast and a huge following before its release meant that it was always going to sell a lot of popcorn but does it live up to all the hype?

The story follows Peter Quill or Star Lord (Chris Pratt) who is kidnapped by space pirates headed up by Yondu (Michael Rooker) just after the death of his mother. Years later, he steals a mysterious orb and is ambushed by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), adopted daughter of the titan Thanos. Their fight attracts two bounty hunters -a genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel) but the group are arrested. Imprisoned in the Kyln, Quill reluctantly joins forces with his fellow captives to escape. Gamora is accosted by the powerful Drax (Dave Bautista) who threatens to kill her due to her connection to the evil Ronan who killed his family. After explaining of her disassociation with Ronan, Drax insists on accompanying the group as they escape. Gamora takes the group to Knowhere to Tivan the Collector who is interested in the orb. He reveals an Infinity Stone inside the orb which can harness enough power to destroy everything but the beings who hold it. As Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) joins Ronan in the hunt for Gamora and the orb, the film hurtles towards a dramatic emotional ending.

Guardians of the Galaxy has some of the best characters in sci-fi. The special relationship between Rocket and Groot was a bizarre but beautiful thing to watch. Both characters provided the bulk of the humour with Quill also chiming in every so often but they were also at the heart of some of the more emotional scenes. Saldana played Gamora as a no nonsense assassin, which was great to see in an all-action space drama. So many films set in this genre depict women as either minor characters or as frail beings who need saving. Quill is a very normal guy in a world where he doesn’t belong but in which he has to be the hero, which gave him a definite likeability factor. Even the initially frightening intimidating Drax became a loveable character who came up with some very funny lines.

It is a fast-paced action film that gets the balance between comedy and emotion just right. Not many dramatic films like this feature the level of comedy that it did but as a result, I felt more invested in the characters than I normally would do with a sci-fi. The sad moments resonated more with me because the characters involved had already made me laugh profusely. As a result, it was easily the best film of its kind that I’ve seen in a long time. The plot wasn’t the best in the world and it was definitely the characters that I came away from the film with. In fact, I had to remind myself of the actual plot before reviewing!

The twist at the end got me excited for the sequel and I’m disappointed to discover that it isn’t due for release for another couple of years yet. If you love your comic book films then it is a must-see, however there are plenty of elements in there for non-comic geeks too. Don’t be afraid that it won’t live up to all the stellar reviews that it’s getting because believe me, it does!

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