Reviews roundup – Annika Andersson ~ Sofia Talvik ~ Vapourtrail ~ Xelerate ~ Mirrorplain ~ Davina and the Vagabonds
ANNIKA ANDERSSON and the Boiling Blues Band
That’s a proper record that is. Bruising blues rock with lots of shuffles, gritty vocals and ‘Mississippi Queen’. And as any fule kno, there is no such thing as too many versions of ‘Mississippi Queen’.
Turns out Ms Andersson was quite well known in the world of seventies Finnish rock when she was the singer in a band called Dead End. She then spent some time as a schlager singer so lots of happy clappy singing. Jump forward a couple of decades and it turns out she couldn’t stay away from the blues. And it’s really good. I’m not going to claim there is anything new here. There isn’t. It’s basically good time rhythm and blues of the type you really want to hear in a packed out, sweaty club with a pint in your hand. There’s eight originals (written by her brother) and three covers. One of which happens to be ‘Rock And Roll Hootchie Koo’, a song the ‘Mississippi Queen’ rule applies to.
But credit where credit’s due, the original material is instantly memorable and the band play the blues like they were born to it. I’ve had this on repeat for a good few days now and it’s appeal has still to wither. A good one.
Paws of a Bear
Well this is nice. At least on the surface.
Ms Talvik is a Swedish / American singer who mixes up folk music, country and seventies style singer / songwriter material. And does it really well.
She’s had a slew of albums out prior to this one including 2005 debut album, “Blue Moon” follow-up “Streets of Dreams” and 2015 release “Big Sky Country”. The latter girded some rave reviews and on the evidence of this, her catalogue should be one worth investigating.
On the surface everything is sweetness and light, especially as Ms Talvik has a very gentle voice. The music, likewise, is fragile and delicate, vintage lace you don’t want to handle. But then you listen to the words and realise that there is a lot of darkness in her town. There is bitterness and weariness in there and by the time you get to the closing ‘Die Alone’, which is a grim as the title suggests, your preconceptions are lying in pieces.
Despite that there is humour and warmth in places, with songs like ‘I Liked You Better’ bringing a smile to my face. The ten tracks flashed by, always a good sign, and it’s one of those records that more than stands up to being on constant repeat. If here last record got her name known, this one deserves to have it in lights. An outstanding release.
We Save Heroes
Vapourtrail give good PR bumph. “groovy basslines meet smashing beats, distorted guitar riffs collide with effects and matter arises when protons strike near the speed of light”.
Although I’m reasonably confident something went wrong when that was Babelfished from German to English. Because the Swiss band are an indie rock meets post grunge band. You know. Foofightery.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good if you like That Sort Of Thing but sadly the promised “trip in the particle accelerator” failed to materialise.
They’re good musicians and have a couple of good tunes tucked away on this record with ‘Here You Are’ and ‘When Time Started Burning’ the highlights. There are some instrumental parts where they stretch out into Muse territory and if that is your Sort Of Thing then it’s worth an investigatory stream.
I quite liked this one. A Norwegian band who formed in 2010, they released an album seven years back (the delightfully titled “Shitkickers”) and have finally got round to recording a follow-up.
They’re basically modern metal with a few old school melodic metal references thrown in for good measure. For an indie release it comes across with a lot of power and it’s the sort of thing you would have heard on metal radio the last time I listened to any (about three years back).
The songs are generally strong and vocalist Gry Anita Sivertsen has a really good voice. They’re at their best when the guitars get a wee bit on the heavy side so I was most taken with ‘Feel The Flame’ and ‘Game Changer’. But they even manage to come up with a lighter in the air ballad in the shape of ‘Far From A Game’ which still has power behind it.
It’s one of those record that’s a bit of a grower as I found myself unexpectedly returning to it and then wondering why I’d never heard of them before. It’s definitely recommended and if one of the major European metal label was to throw some cash their way I reckon they could come up with something special.
Lost In Paradise
It’s been a couple of years since I heard their “Path Of Salvation” album, a record that failed to impress. So I was mildly surprised they made it to this record what with my track record of killing bands dead.
But this one is better. Granted it’s still modern alt-rock with a few metallic edges which isn’t a noise that rocks my boat but the songs are better and the performances are better so props where they’re due.
As with other bands of their ilk they’re looking to post grunge and the less harsh side of nu-metal for their sounds. Vocalist Christian Döring wins the most improved member award as this time the rough edge to his voice has been harnessed properly. That might be down to producer Hilton Theissen who does a bang up job on the whole album.
The best songs are very listenable with ‘Judgement Day’ and ‘Mr Hyde’ miles ahead of anything from their last outing. There are a few of the songs that sound interchangeable but the progress they’ve made is to be admired.
DAVINA and the VAGABONDS
Red House Records
Aw now, this is just glorious. See, since I was a wean I have loved the sound of jumpin’ jive and swing. My parents were born in the twenties and met dancing at the Palais where there were two big bands on a revolving stage. So the dancing never had to stop.
Which meant there were always Glenn Miller and Dorsey Brothers on the go. I always used to enjoy the strange looks when I’d turn up at the latter day Glenn Miller and Syd Lawrence Orchestra shows. A bunch of seventy and eighty year olds and one large, bearded, tattooed barbarian. Good times.
So this record is honey for my ears. Even better, Ms Sowers writes practically all the songs here. Aye there are a couple of covers but her own songs sound like lost forties classics straight from the first play. Delicious. And she’s a really good singer. Result. She knows how to swing, the arrangements are joyous with a fantastic horn section. And when you can bring in a legend like Reese Wynans to add some Hammond B3 to some of your tunes things are going to go well.
Musically it’s blue, jazz, swing and beyond with songs like ‘Devil Horns’ (with mariachi ring of fire), ‘Magic Kisses’ and ‘Stop Playing With My Heart’ close to perfection. There are even a couple of songs that would get her some pop radio play with ‘I Can’t Believe I Let You Go’ designed to come out a car radio. She even manages to cover one of my favourite songs and leave me smiling. Not something covers of beloved songs are wont to do. That’s the Lee Dorsey stone cold classic ‘Holy Cow’ in case you’re wondering.
If you like the music of years gone by brought bang up to date with 21st century production values then you need to buy this NOW!
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton