Author Archives: Elliott Blackburn

Needle Drop: ESTRONS, “Whoever She Was…”

I’m not going to pretend like I’m an impartial reviewer for this one, I think ESTRONS are awesome. Hearing “Make a Man” for the first time a couple of months back, I was immediately drawn to the power of the guitar riffs and the feistiness of Taliesyn Källström’s vocals.

In fact, before I carry on, go watch the video. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Good, eh? Well, with their new EP, “Whoever She Was…,” the band certainly didn’t disappoint my now lofty expectations. “Make a Man” is accompanied by three other tracks which all have distinct sounds and moods but retain the same impact and songwriting prowess for which ESTRONS are fast becoming known.

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Needle Drop: Lenin Death Mask, “Three Hits”

Vladimir Lenin is one of the most famous names of the 20th century. His deeply held Communist beliefs shaped the formation of the Soviet Union from the 1917 revolution to his death in 1924. Lenin Death Mask are a band from Aberdeen whose feelings about politics and violent revolution are unclear, but they have released a brilliant new EP, aptly named “Three Hits.”

Coming out of a fertile Aberdonian scene, the 4-piece play a sort of math-rock, post-punk hybrid, with songs that never seem to settle, instead constantly exploring new ideas and sounds. The product is three tunes which are a feast for the ears.

“Borderline” is my favourite of the three, opening with a warm guitar sound under the vocals which are sung almost like a lullaby before the full band come in, distortion to the max, and a catchy as hell chorus. Then, before you can even get a hold of what’s going on, we’re into a sort of middle section, as the two guitars and the bass seem to all decide to do their own thing, the drums somehow holding them together like a parent trying to control three toddlers on a sugar rush. And we’re back, the chorus with its delightful vocal hook returns. One more round of the chaotic middle section and that’s your lot, it’s fleeting nature really helping towards its repeatability.

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UK Artist of the Week: Dead Boy Robotics

Fresh from releasing their second full album New Cells, Dead Boy Robotics are heading into the end of the year on a high.

If you haven’t come across them already, the Edinburgh trio’s new album is best described as brooding, dark electro-rock. Drenched in reverb as if the whole recording was fittingly recorded in an abandoned church, the album shows us a band finding home in a new sound.

Their previous material, led by the debut self-titled album, had much more of a straight-up electro sound and in my opinion suffered as a result as Mike Bryant’s fantastic voice would often get smothered by the keys and various effects. The new, more defined sound allows each instrument in the band’s line-up to both stand-out in its own way as well as blending to foster a more coherent composition.

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Needle Drop: Broken Boy, “Ready”

Classic ’00s indie guitar music is a genre we’re all familiar with. It’s bright, it’s danceable, it’s catchy—and it was bloody everywhere between 2003 and 2007.

Broken Boy’s new single “Ready” fits into all of the above categories—other than that fact that it was released last month, and maybe it is because of this fact that I am struggling a little to get on board with it. There is nothing wrong here, it has a great hook and chorus, pop sensibilities built on lightly distorted guitars, and Cam Black’s voice has the nice mix of charm and boyish brashness. What I’m getting at is that if this your thing, Broken Boy do it very well.

It’s just that it has been done, and done a lot. There was a reason music lovers in this country moved on. The champions of the indie boom like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, etc., all realized that the well had run dry and new styles and sounds needed to be employed. That’s not to say skinny boys with guitars have had their day, just that it’s not really something people are craving at the moment—myself included. To keep with the well metaphor, it needs to be given time to refill before we can drink from it again.

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Needle Drop: Ex Libras, “Leap of Faith”

Quite often bands become known for a specific skill they have. For the Arctic Monkeys, it’s Alex Turner’s ability with lyrics. With Muse, it’s Matt Bellamy’s guitar and vocal prowess. And for Razorlight, it was Jonny Borrell’s ego.

Well, for Ex Libras—it’s their mastery of tension and release. Going back through previous records, they show time and time again that building a song piece-by-piece toward a climactic moment when the brakes are released and the sound pours out, is such an effective way to create engaging and beautiful music.

Their latest video for “Leap of Faith,” the second track to be taken from their current EP “Woe,” shows us in the simplest way the band doing just that. For some, a video of the band simply playing their track with a couple of arty shots thrown in would bore me to tears, but Ex Libras are such great live performers that you can’t help but be glued. Amit Sharma, Kieran Nagi, and Ross Kenning almost throw themselves around the set, hitting their instruments as much as playing them, relaying a sense of the emotion behind the track.

If you haven’t come across them before, this is a great demonstration of what makes Ex Libras a great band. Also, check out “Woe,” out now via Wirebird Records.

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Needle Drop: The Van T’s, “Laguna Babe” EP

Honeyblood, Hinds, Menace Beach—over the last few years there have been a number of excellent post-punk, female-led bands to emerge onto the alternative music scene, and with their new EP “Laguna Babe,” The Van T’s are making a strong case to join them.

Led by twins Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson, these Glaswegian rockers combine dual vocals with simple but catchy reverbed guitar lines and frantic drums to produce tunes which come with all the energy you might expect—yet with some equally impressive songcraft.

Title track “Laguna Babe” (which has also been released as a single), lures you with its slow grungy intro before dropping into the double-time verse and a classic surf-rock lead guitar line. “Growler” on the other hand brings to mind strong comparisons to bands like the Pixies with its harmonically distorted guitars and heavy ride cymbal drum beat.

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Needle Drop: Chris Meid, “Red River”

I’ve always found Europop a bit of a marmite genre—there are those who love it and those who hate it. Its distinct sound and simple building blocks make it easily recognizable, and if that’s your thing you can’t really go wrong. If you like Swedish House Mafia, you probably like David Guetta.

Chris Meid definitely fits alongside those artists. His new single—his first as a solo artist—has the thump of the bass drum, the singable lyrics, and the catchy chord progression. However Chris has managed add fresh elements to the track while still making it appealing to fans of the genre.

In “Red River” we hear banjos, a lead melody that is whistled, and Tyler Sjöström’s distinctly US Country influenced vocals. And amazingly—you might have guessed from my first paragraph, I am not a fan of Europop—I do find myself enjoying the song. I’m probably not going to rush out and buy it, but the aspects added by Chris has peaked my interest and made me want to keep my eye on him and how he develops as an artist. Considering my starting impression that’s definitely a win, Chris.

Chris Meid’s debut single “Red River” is out now via Warner Music.

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Needle Drop: Asbjørn, “Scandinavian Love”

The Generation Game, The Price is Right, 3-2-1—the classic 70’s game shows with their bright pastel colours and cheesy hosts are both famously and infamously remembered. Oh, you don’t remember them? Well no bother, Abjørn will gladly remind you.

“The Danish-pop kid” (as he is described by the host of the show) has released a great tongue-in-cheek video to “Scandinavian Love,” the album opener on new record Pseudo Visions. The track is a perfect example of his cerebral-pop with its thumping drum beat and catchy as hell chorus.

Abjørn plays an unrepentant Lothario brought on to a “love doctor” type show to try to make him aware of the hurt his actions are causing. After some rather dodgy looking, empathy-inducing products are tested on him, he still seems unconvinced, instead displaying some troubling—and somewhat funny—narcissistic tendencies. In front of the show’s host (who seems oblivious to the whole thing) he sets up his next date… “at the park, after dark” in case you were interested.

Of course, no self-respecting pop video can go without some great dance moves and we are duly treated to Abjørn’s finest (we can see how he gets around to breaking so many hearts) as he performs, looking more Scandinavian than a Midsommer Festival.

Pseudo Visions is out now via Sinnbus.

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Needle Drop: We’re No Heroes, “Stay Weird” b/w “Voodoo”

Cardiff three-piece (though originally from Chicago) We’re No Heroes are a great example of proving that you can write indie guitar music that people can dance to.

As a great fan of the genre in general, my main gripe about it is that bands and fans can get a little too serious about the music sometimes—you feel like shaking some of them and saying, “Guys we’re supposed to be having fun here.” Well, while physically shaking someone might be a step too far, a dose of We’re No Heroes’ double A-side single “Stay Weird” / “Voodoo” should do the same job.

A slick combination of funk-tinged guitars, a lively bass line, and dance-friendly drums (oh, and a generous helping of swagger)—Tom Collins (vocals and guitar), Luke Llewellyn (drums and vocals), and Michael Owen (bass and vocals) have produced two tracks that you can’t help but at least toe-tap to.

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