This week our three guest reviewers take on another five new tracks and give them a spin through the headphones before they then air their opinion on each.
This week's panel: Bang Bang Romeo drummer, Richard Gartland; Little Indie contributor, Richard O'Hagan; drummer with Glasgow band The Van T's - Shaun Hood.
CODEWALKERS - RUNAROUND
Out November 3, the third single from Cardiff-based three-piece: Nigerian Seun Babatola (vocals) and local North Wales brothers, Dafydd (guitar) and Ben (synth) Dabson. An ear-grabbing mix of alt-R&B, hip-hop, reggae and electronica, it comes from their debut album 'Even Better Enemies' (out early 2018). Seun describes the affecting, hard-hitting lyrics as, 'a warning to the predators - you keep pushing, it's just a matter of time before somebody decides to push back'.
Richard Gartland: Absolutely loved the intro, I'm a sucker for percussive vocal parts. Beautiful arrangement, but seems to switch vibe too quickly for me. Lyrics are strong, great message. Felt the drum and bass switch up cheapened the song, but the strings are beautifully arranged. A bit all over the place on the whole, can't decide whether I liked it or not. 3/5.
Richard O'Hagan: I feel really conflicted by this. They've tried to tackle a difficult subject here and I totally get the message that they're bringing, but the lyric is just so grating. It's like they've tried to shoehorn words in because they couldn't really think of anything that fits. In all, a worthy effort, but they've not quite pulled it off for me. 3/5
Shaun Hood: Stylistically speaking, this track is a little on the schizophrenic side. It opens with a sombre a cappella and the groove kicks in nicely with beats accented by breathing and soulful female vocals lamenting over quite a serious subject matter. This is followed by a dubstep drop and a bit of melodic rapping that I can't say I'm sold on; just as the tone of the voice improves somewhat, it all gets a bit too drum and bass for my liking. I get that this sort of genre mashup is what the artist is going for and I do actually enjoy the odd bit of reggae D'n'B, but feel like it's placement in this particular track takes away from it rather than adding to it like for example the use of strings towards the end of the song. 2.5/5
Total score: 8.5/15
ARTIFICIAL PLEASURE - WOUND UP TIGHT
“It’s about feeling on edge, as if this state of anxiety and constant worry has now become normality,” say the London electro-pop outfit of new single and EP title track, released December 8. Sounding like a Franz Ferdinand and WHITE mash-up, after the killer 35 seconds opening, it's all uphill on beaty stomps and infectious guitar riffs.
RG: Love the 80s grooves but maybe flirting slightly too closely to Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Two Tribes' for me to be able to fully engage with the track. Chorus is massive. Synth hook grabs you with both hands. 3/5.
ROH: YES! YES! CHRIST ON A HOVERBOARD, YES! This is one of the best things I've heard all year. TV On The Radio meets 80s disco, with an air of tension thrown in for good measure, too. Great vocal, funky bass, superb to the outro. Can I give this ten out of five? 5/5
SH: This track opens with a chugging monotone synth loop and four on the floor drum groove, it's dressed in groovy bass lines and smoking guitar hooks which hold well within the hypnotic 16th note backbone. Dramatic builds interweave with anxiously intense vocals before dropping back down to the rhythmic base to round off the piece. I feel like the production itself leaves a little to be desired and the musical ideas could have been slightly more developed, but it's an all round impressive effort regardless. 3/5
Total score: 11/15
THE CHEAP THRILLS - SENTIMENTALITY
A Guardian Band To Break - of 2013, so about time they smashed the mould - this synth-pop anthem follow-up single to EP 'Glare' (released through Eighties Vinyl Records back in January) could be what it takes to set the Liverpool four-piece onto bigger things, with chorus chants and explosive guitars. Catch live at single launch show in Liverpool at The Magnet on October 28.
RG: Opening synth line is infectious, borderline pop-punk at times with a large chunk of psych-rock. Love the energy. It feels safe, hasn't got the identity and groove of some of their other material, and won't change lives, but will definitely be adding to my morning playlists. 4/5.
ROH: I feared that I was going to end up disliking this a lot, but in fact it's annoyingly catchy. It kind of reminded me of the Soup Dragons for some reason. I love the way that the keyboard drives the melody, and the fuzzy bass sound. 3.5/5
SH: An uptempo piece of high school era pop/rock genius. Super catchy from the get go and ticks a lot of boxes throughout. Solid songwriting and a distinctive Liverpool accent help set the band apart too. Not much else to say on this one, but although it's not really my kind of thing as such, there are certainly no complaints and I'll no doubt have that chorus playing through my head all week. 4/5
Total score: 11.5/15
ABISHA - ALL THAT
Addictively impressive earworm debut from 22-year-old alternative R&B singer-songwriter from Devon (by way of South London). The coolly-restrained slow-burner (about the pitfalls of seeing more than one person at once) was produced by the legendary Mike Chapman after a chance meeting in a South East London pub.
RG: Great production value, sits in a genre I'm not too familiar with and doesn't progress enough to please my own taste. Good voice, can see the appeal to lovers of RnB and soul, enjoyed a darker vibe than expected in the chorus. 2/5.
ROH: This is the sort of song that really gets my goat. She clearly has a good voice, but this song does nothing and goes nowhere. She might as well be singing Christmas carols in July for all the impact this makes. 2.5/5
SH: The first thing I picked up with this one was the production, even through generic iPhone speakers on first listen it just jumped out at me so I knew that coming back to it with a good set of headphones would be rewarding. Seriously enjoyed the warm tones and trap drums throughout. The vocal harmonies in the chorus were almost reminiscent of something along the lines of Lianne La Havas which again is right up my street. Lyrically, the track is written from a confessional standpoint and I really feel like the artist gets her point across without pushing it too much. 4.5/5
Total score: 9/15
DRAHLA - SILK SPIRIT
Taken from the forthcoming debut EP, 'Third Article', produced by Hookworms' MJ - out November 24 on 12" vinyl via Blank Ad - from the Leeds-based post-punk trio, with singer/bassist Luciel Brown doing a Jehnny Beth-alike over a brimful of shuddering rhythm forces and wiry guitars.
RG: Indicative of the female fronted indie grunge scene led by the likes of Wolf Alice and Dream Wife. Groove is hypnotic and the track as a whole grew on me with a second and third listen. Not instant, but will be checking out more from Drahla. Powerful but nonchalant vocal and guitar parts, almost lazy in accuracy but 100% deliberate. 4/5.
ROH: I confess that I've heard this on the radio a few times already. I love the guitar sound on this, and the Louise Wener-esque vocals. It's a shame that you can't really make out what she's singing about, but it's a decent tune and they've got a lot of potential. 4/5
SH: Quite a clever little rock'n'roll number. I really dig the stream of consciousness writing style as you can throw a lot out there lyrically in the one song, it gives it a bit of a Courtney Barnett vibe too which helps lift the instrumental from being too doom and gloom or monotonous. The rhythm section are tight with their pushes and use of dynamics too which always helps. But for me this one was more of a grower and I can't imagine it being everyone's bag. 3.5/5
Total score: 11.5/15