Thursday, 22 September 2011

Boy Set Sail - We're Almost There EP Review

Do you remember my introduction of Boy Set Sail with their EP sampler recently? Well the EP, entitled We're Almost There, is now available and I've had a little listen myself. Check out my review below and be sure to get yourself a copy to help support our struggling young music scene.

Track 1/Rewind/ A strong and anthemic start to the CD highlights a cool-sounding pop song with fantastic lead vocals and a great song-writing abilitiy. Backing vocals help to support the main vocals throughout as the lead guitar dabbles in cheeky lead-lines here and there adding a little more colour to the track. It's quite a short song coming in at just 2.30 mins but packs a strong and determined punch nonetheless.

Track 2/Believe/ Starts in a similar way to its predecessor with chugging, palm-muted guitar and introspective vocals before the rest of the band enter. The chorus is strong, once again led by the vocals and there's a lot of energy in the track but I'm not sure the production does the overall CD justice. The drums in particular sound a little deflated and the whole EP could perhaps do with some more brightness and texture to help it really jump out. This, of course, isn't to take away from the song-writing and arrangements; although Believe is even shorter than Rewind, all the tracks demonstrate a great interest and awareness of the genre and the band demonstrate this well with really tight performances.

Track 3/You Are/ A mix of double and half-time rhythms introduce the mid-way part of the EP with a more interesting track. There are some unexpected chord progressions which are welcomed and some progressive work as the track builds, introducing new guitar ideas in the second verse and a fluent breakdown section. The final chorus kicks in really well with loads of energy from the drums, again playing with the rhythms, before settling for a relentless double-time feel as the lead vocals step further into the limelight with some strong final notes.

Track 4/All These Things/ A confident start and some more cool-sounding chord progressions. The verses rock but the chorus is a little weak in comparison and doesn't stand out on its own as much as others on the EP have done so. This might be because the vocals lead the chorus sticking too close to the home key as in the verses and don't break up into the next octave until the end of the second line; the chorus needs to pack a punch all of it's own and not amble so politely in from the verse. It's a safe track; by all means sounds good and fits in perfectly with the rest of the EP but it's no highlight for me.

Track 5/ This Time Around/ Track 5 marks the end of the journey with Boy Set Sail and safely remains well within the pop-punk bordera showcasing strong lead vocals, supportive backing, frantic bursts of drum fills and confident lead-guitar lines. I'm glad the vocals remain with an unashamed English accent and haven't adopted a bad American twang; there's nothing worse with UK pop-punk than when bands feel the need to completely emulate our cousins across the pond in every which way. The breakdown here sounds cool, bravely sticking with just vocals and guitar for quite a length of time but it pays dividends when the rest of the band are re-introduced. The song, especially the ending, definitely has a finalising quality to it that rounds off the EP well. The band have definitely honed their sound and I'm sure are even better live, matched on a like-with-like bill and with a bit more volume and brightness behind them. They're brilliant at what they do but I'm not sure the sound of the EP in general has enough for them to stand out in a very crowded sea of pop-punk enthusiasts. The ideas and musicality are great and I wish the boys every success but I'm worried that the sound is a little too familiar in terms of what a pop-punk audience might expect and sometimes you've got to step outside the box to ensure your voice is heard.

You can purchase your copy of the EP from iTunes or from the label's website where you can keep up to date with the band.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

New Artist Alert: Two Types of Clothing

When We Were Beautiful is proud to introduce Two Types of Clothing, a hard-edged pop-punk trio who come bursting onto the scene already with loads of gigging experience. The guys hope to add to this soon when they become of driving age (17 in the UK) and have the freedom of the open road ahead of them. In the meantime, their current three-track EP 'It's Not Our Fault' fell into my proverbial lap and I was more than intrigued to have a listen...

Track 1/The Truth's Off The Bed/ A poetic title that sets the lyrical scene for the track, as a strong guitar riff builds, guiding us through the accompanying half-time feel then all-out double time massacre. I love the chords playing behind the main riff; it's a very genre-specific riff and feel. The vocals are all-out punk with a quintessential hint of English charm and, to be honest, it's refreshing to hear male vocals over a pop-punk track without a pretentious American tinge. The guitar threatens to burst in throughout the verses as the rhythm section drives along relentlessly, eventually parting for the half-time feel chorus. The breakdown goes exactly where it needs to, with a great intro to it and the solo is just what was called for; predictable perhaps but for all the right reasons. The band tease with the final chorus, letting big guitar chords ring and introducing a hi-fi vocal sound before everything falls back into place for one final flourish. A really explosive opener with great energy.

Track 2/Picks and Sticks/ A prickly guitar riff opens up to a more melodic and dynamic pattern as it introduces the second track that's just as ferocious as the first. This band's all about the riffs and I can really appreciate the song-writing abilities of the band; they're tight and all very capable musicians topped off with really raw and confident vocals and great musical ideas. The verses are imaginative and the chorus comes like a punch in the face, hitting you like a freight train and not leaving any prisoners but it's not so heavy that it wouldn't work on Radio 1 which is a great balance I think the band have struck. The guitar chords that ring out in the breakdown sound a little weak against the drums and could do with a little more volume and reverb on them. I think they just sound a tad dry but it's nothing to do with the arrangement, more about post-production work. The section it feeds into though sounds great and again the chord progression and the specific voicings really work well. It dips once more before gaining volume for the final chorus, adding to the impact that the punch of a final chorus should pack.

Track 3/Limitations/ A crackly, feeding-back intro filters through before the guitar riff welcomes us to the final track of the EP, I think the only criticism I would have is that all the intros are quite lengthy; it was almost a full minute before the vocals came in and I think listeners (and record execs alike) want to be grabbed as soon as possible to maintain their interest. The harmonies explored here work really well and are really nice to hear; the track itself isn't as strong as its predecessors but the addition of backing vocals helps it to stand its own. The drummer sounds great in this track, really showcasing himself well with loads of flashy fills and busy grooves; the breakdown is guitar-led and could easily lead to a solo but works equally well feeding back into the chorus. The song ends well and caps off the EP perfectly.

Two Types of Clothing are hitting the studio again soon to record a track that will be available on iTunes for a pocket-friendly 79p so be sure to check that out soon and keep up to date with the guys on their Facebook page where you'll also find a rocking version of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

EP Review: Four Weeks Inbetween - Chasing Wasted Time

It's a Friday night at The Joiners, Southampton's premier small rock venue, and hoards of loyal teenage supporters are kitted out with the latest t-shirt from the pop-punk wonderkids Four Weeks Inbetween, emblazoned with their slogan 'You Hide Behind Your Tainted Smile'. They are eagerly awaiting the band's headline set at their EP launch show, and all the sweat and shoving that goes with it. The band had a great crowd for a local show that stuck around for the entire set and were eager for more. Even more impressive was that, the band's vocalist, Luu McGonagle, had them in the palm of her hand. If she said jump, they jumped. If she said singalong, they knew all the words. But it wasn't cringey like it could have been, far from it; it was admirable. Friends joined in for signature tracks, either on the floor or by crashing the stage and there was a lot of energy and fun in the room. These guys look the part, sound the part and most importantly, act the part, and I wish them all the luck in the world for the future.

And now onto the EP; Chasing Wasted Time. Physically it's a very professional product, in plastic case with printed CD, great artwork, and a small booklet which features photos of the band and lyrics for their two singles. But I know you're much more interested in the audio rather than the visual...

Track 1/Sit Tight/ An explosive opener to the CD with strong vocals from the outset shared between lead and backing. The guitar is afforded a sudden break showcasing imaginative writing before the really strong chorus drops which has a great vocal hook. The rhythm section is steady and pulsating throughout; a reliable engine driving this energetic track. The breakdown gradually builds to a strong section before the last chorus, led by lead solo vocals, which works really well. The culmination of the song is a huge final push from all members of the band before a very sudden cut; I wasn't sure it worked first-time around but when I re-listened it was quite a brave thing to do and does, in fact, work and work well. A great opener to the EP.

Track 2/Chinos/ The first of the band's singles from the EP features prominently, and is a great throw-back to fast and fun pop-punk bands ranging from Blink 182 to Avril Lavigne; the lyrics smack of teenage-heartache whilst the music reveals no let-up and drives along, pulled furiously by the crotchet snare strokes which are as relentless as the song itself. The breakdown section again showcases some great lead-guitar work before it bows out to allow the lead vocals to lead into the final chorus and a great tapping-guitar solo, mixes of half and double-time rhythms, huge cymbals, frantic bass lines and anything else they could think to throw into the mix. Huge, and another great pop-punk song worthy of it's single-status.

Track 3/Lost/ Discerning, winding guitar leads us into the mid-way point of the CD eventually making way for steady chugging, palm-muted guitars and dual-layered lead vocals. The chorus is equally as strong as its EP-counterparts and musically shows a great awareness of writing for the genre. The lead guitar definitely leads this track though, returning to its hook before the second verse; it's setting up for one hell of a solo. The breakdown is very much led by the vocals, with a great heavy beatdown section which unfortunately doesn't lead to the blistering guitar solo I expected which is the only thing the track is missing. The vocals bring the song home and it ends as it begins with the lead guitar line, although personally I'd have preferred it if the lingering note hadn't been resolved, creating a feeling of unease with the listener but this is a minor, and most importantly, personal opinion.

Track 4/Alaska/ A great and strong-sounding chord progression accompanied by huge drums provide a great intro, as the track drops dynamically in the first verse and progressively builds from there before it reaches the same energy apparent in the intro in the great sounding chorus. The band have defiintely honed their sound, tipping their hats to tried and tested writing techniques of pop-punk greats and pull it off really well. I love the breakdown sections with the held-back dual-vocals shared between the lead and backing before they become a little more desperate and push a little more as the music progresses further into a slick outro.

Track 5/Make Do, With You/ I've sung the praises of this track before, very much the leading song on the EP which not only stands out coming from my speakers, but holds it own in a live setting too with a great singalong chorus. This was proven by the droves of loyal supporters at the EP launch show as they sung 'I've got so much left to say, why won't you tell me anyway' at the tops of their voices. Back to the EP and a hi-fi guitar sound introduces arguably the band's strongest song. We're sucked out of the vortex and released among the huge full-band sound as the verse gathers speed (not literally, the drummer is holding down the groove and doing a great job!) before the chorus explodes onto the scene complete with well-supportive backing vocals and great vocal melodies. The obvious hook of the track makes up the breakdown section; they conflict slightly when the lead vocals come back in briefly but this might be more a case of levels in the mix rather than the actual idea. The band tease at an ending before we're dragged back around again one more time. The drum outro I feel could have been longer layered with loads of reverb to give it a huge sound but it's a cool idea.

Track 6/Chinos/ It's been a relentless ride with the Four Weeks Inbetween crew and much-needed rest is sought in the acoustic version of an earlier-featured track which is a great move. It really allows the lead vocals to showcase themselves in among so much more space and sheds the entire song in a whole new light. It works equally well as an acoustic ballad and I'm glad they included it at the end to round-off a really professional-sounding EP. They work around the guitar solo section well with a much calmer offering and I love that they revisit this at the end, leaving a really positive final thought with the listener. In all, a really strong sounding CD that I hope paves more of a path for this band who are well on their way to making a name for themselves as long as the pop-punk genre remains strong for a little bit longer, providing a leap-pad for them and their infectious tracks.

For more info, be sure to visit the band's website and keep up to date with them on Facebook.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

New Artist Alert: Boy Set Sail

Introducing Boy Set Sail, the latest pop-punkers to join the I Am Mighty Records roster and I bring news that their debut EP, We're Almost There, is available for pre-order now. All Pre-Orders will be signed by the band and come with some free stickers from I Am Mighty Records.

You can pre-order your copy here! Included below is an EP sampler to give you a flavour of what to expect from the Welsh quartet:

Boy Set Sail - We're Almost There Sampler by I Am Mighty Records

You can keep up to date with Boy Set Sail on their Facebook page.