Top 25 Albums of the Year

2019 has been arguably the decade’s best year for music, an incredibly exciting and eclectic year for new artists, genres transcending from fuzzy psych rock, to ambient electro-pop, to dirty underground grime. Indie Underground’s top 25 albums of the year vary from the best new punk acts, such as Calva Louise and LIFE, to fuzzy math rock band black midi, and the intrinsic rapper Slowthai, all of whom graced the year with their fantastic albums

All with raw DIY elements, and stunning musical themes layered throughout, here are our top 25 picks for 2019

25) Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow – Yonaka

Yonaka - Don't Wait Til Tomorrow

24) All Mirrors – Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen - All Mirrors

23) Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande - thank u, next

22) Ghosteen – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

21) Norman Fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

20) Rhinoceros – Calva Louise

Calva Louise - Rhinoceros

19) Smooth Big Cat – Dope Lemon

Dope Lemon - Smooth Big Cat

18) Fine Line – Harry Styles

harry-styles-album-1.jpg

17) Hoodies All Summer – Kano

Kano - Hoodies All Summer

16) Jade Bird – Jade Bird

Jade Bird - Jade Bird

15) Schlagenheim – black midi

Black Midi - Schlagenheim

14) Heavy Is The Head – Stormzy

Stormzy - Heavy Is The Head

13) When I Have Fears – The Murder Capital

The Murder Capital - When I Have Fears

12) Infest The Rats’ Nest – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - Infest The Rats' Nest

11) Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2 – Foals

Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lose Part 2

10) AJ Tracey – AJ Tracey

AJ Tracey - AJ Tracey

9) Athena – Sudan Archives

Sudan Archives - Athena

8) A Picture Of Good Health – LIFE

LIFE - A Picture of Good Health

7) Dogrel – Fontaines D.C.

Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel

6) Nothing Great About Britain – Slowthai

Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain

5) 24 Carat Diamond Trephine – Avalanche Party

Avalanche Party - 24 Carat Diamond Trephine

4) IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

Tyler The Creator - Igor

3) Crush – Floating Points

Crush - Floating Points

2) GREY Area – Little Simz

Little Simz - GREY Area

1) MAGDALENE – FKA twigs

FKA Twigs - Magdalene

A hauntingly harrowing and stunning debut from Avalanche Party: 24 Carat Diamond Trephine

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24 Carat Diamond Trephine

Welcome the immersive 24 Carat Diamond Trephine, one of the strongest pieces of artwork 2019 has been lucky enough to be graced with. Sharply corrosive, and harrowingly bleak, Avalanche Party’s debut album is a haunting and melodic mix of heavy edged punk, fuzzy psych rock, and shimmery euphoria, and the band have truly excelled themselves, mashing their heavy punk presence with something so stark and chilling that the album conjures up eclectic and dispersed emotions from the very start

The album opens with the vivaciously brooding El Dorado, a haunting and atmospheric track which uses a long drawn out build up and sharp, contrasting vocals to create the horror movie soundtrack feel it has. Lasting nearly six minutes, the sharp notes of Glen and Jared’s keyboards are merged with a captivating orchestral aura, Jordan’s dark vocal deep and intimidating over this. It’s a lot softer than the band’s previous work, and this sets the tone for the rest of the album. The dropping piano notes strike up similarities to a church pipe organ, the use of echoing and reverb effects prolonging an impending feel of something poignant and foreboding. Such beautiful composition instantly grasps your attention, harrowingly inducing one into the trance that is experiencing such a debut album as this. The album continues with Bugzy, which has an audacious and catchy bass line, which sets the tone for the track, steadily continuing throughout. Jordan’s vocal, as it is on much of the album, has an element of theatrical prowess to it, very deep and dark almost akin to Nick Cave, which matches the thudding tones from bassist Joe perfectly. The layering of screams – and shuddering guitar screeches over the bass – build Bugzy up into a wave of energy, which particularly peaks at the line ‘I’m not the one you wanted but I’m the one you got.’ The album then steeply punches into 7, followed by Howl. The aggressive violence of 7 is mosh pit inducing, a raucous nastiness at the core of the track. The slithering bass line that follows after Jordan’s careless projection of the words ‘oh baby’ again strike up the organ sound, as the album’s themes start to become more evident. The sharp keyboard is used again for Howl, which has more of a chorus to it, and having more than one vocal present in the chorus gives Howl an almost choir-esque feel. Heavy vocal distortions are used as well, with a well set mic reverb adding a maturity to the track

Milk & Sunlight Is A Heavy Dream is your more typical rock’n’roll track, the light whispery vocals drawing similarities to early Avalanche Party discography, notably Let’s Get Together off the band’s 2016 debut EP. The album picks out old Avalanche Party elements, yet at the same time is a highly mature and fresh piece of art. With its weird dub step electronica, HAHA is by far the album’s most experimental and unique track. It stands out quite starkly, the electronic drumming and heavy usage of dark synth and synthetic crackling adding a very fresh and tentative vibe to the album. Hey Misdemeanour which follows is very much so the opposite track to the themes present in HAHA, very soft and calming, a kind of lullaby one might feel. The use of the acoustic guitar and harmonic backing vocals is really beautiful, a little bluesy twinge of guitar cropping up in the track here and there. Vaguely similar to Million Dollar Man with that thudding opening, Playing Field Blues follows. With its damning lyrics and scratchy screeches of guitar, the track begins as a scatty and vivacious one, before interestingly becoming a much more experimental industrial piece of music. This is the point in which the album becomes the intriguing left-field controversial album that it is, as Playing Field Blues immerses you as the listener with its flowing mix of styles and sub-genres which are rarely mixed into one three minute long track

“This is the point in which the album becomes the intriguing left-field controversial album that it is”

We are then welcomed to Every Last Drop, a calming track which has subtle elements of psychedelia alongside a melancholy broodiness. Jordan’s voice is so beautiful on this album, and Every Last Drop is a really nice way of showcasing this, the calming nature of the track becoming almost overwhelming near the end, through Kane’s rolling drums and the scarring distorted guitar solo. The guitar on the album’s penultimate track Cruel Madness is a pure joy to listen to, the riff like a twisted parallel version of reality, the riffs and drumming pattern almost like a carousel theme tune. Jordan’s lyrics on this are very observational and quite scary in a sense, one of the best lines in the track being “imagine my surprise when I saw you crawling all the way from that fake dimension just to tell me you got a message, you’re trying to send.” And we end 24 Carat Diamond Trephine on what is one of the best tracks ever written, Rebel Forever. Stirring up post-grunge 90s sounds, with a stark and bleak sense of poetic injustice behind the lyrics, Rebel Forever is a perfect close for the album. It’s the rawness of the bass and reverbed guitar which jump up an octave nearer the end, paired with the sharpness of Jordan’s vocal, which make Rebel Forever as hauntingly mesmerising as it is. Lyrically, the band cleverly tie the end of the album in with the very start, by featuring the lyric ‘it flies over the sea and across the world, ‘til it reaches El Dorado’, a neat reference to the album’s opening track. Meaning ‘the golden one’ in Spanish, the old myth of El Dorado was that a city made entirely of gold existed in South America, encapsulating an undying thirst for gold and riches held by many. Yet the myth was dissolved upon learning that El Dorado was in fact a leader, a ruler so rich that we would bathe himself in said gold. The themes of greed, loss, and delusion struck up by the tale of El Dorado are extremely in line with the lyrical themes running throughout the album, one which is brutal and dark, and one of the most honest and thematically intricate albums of the year

9/10

Brimming with fuzzy rock authenticity and eloquent licks of pop, Calva Louise release their stunning debut album Rhinoceros

Swirly kaleidoscopic pop encapsulates you in a hazy rock bubble, undertones of punk seeping through the dreamy shell that Calva Louise have so meticulously crafted with their debut album. Entitled Rhinoceros, the album is a power house, a combination of previously released singles, old remastered tracks, and innovative new ones. The album is eclectic to say the least, subtle genres swirling in and out of each track, flitting from crafty indie pop, to more twisted ecstatic punk.

I first saw this band about two years ago, playing a tiny all dayer at the punk hub that is the Windmill in Brixton, first seeing Jess herself when she played alongside Wonk Unit, supporting Slaves in Camden. The growth of the band since 2016 has been so incredibly special, their sound maturing and growing in a very interesting direction. With Rhinoceros, Jess, Ben and Alizon were faced with the challenge of creating an album with its roots planted in punk, yet still with the aptitude to grow into a more indie pop sounding record – to create something well produced and crafted, yet still retaining the DIY authenticity which established their adoring fan base in the first place. And what they have created is truly spectacular – we see a fusion of genres, and in turn influences, which has built their debut into a blinding monster of an album.

Calva-Louise
Calva Louise, by Annie Warner 

It opens up with catchy, witty pop tune I Heard A Cry, leading nicely into previously released singles I’m Gonna Do Well, Tug Of War, and Getting Closer, tracks two and four respectively being storming punk tracks, scathing with a snarly vivacity. In complete contrast, No Hay and Down the Stream embed a more subtle, almost acoustic lightness into the album, delicately balancing out the savageness of the first half of the album. For me personally, it’s the last few tracks on the album which really are magical. Wondertale and Cruel Girl are packed with scatty buzzsaw riffs, the craft of Jess on lead and Alizon on bass creating a bubbling electricity. Ben’s drumming is particularly prominent on Cruel Girl too – this track would have to be my favourite on the album, my love for it coming right down to the scathing grit behind Jess’s vocal and the blinding riff throughout, which loops round and round in a crazily infectious manner

It’s so refreshing to have bands like Calva Louise releasing music into the messy stratosphere that is the concept of ‘post-punk,’ particularly as they are building on the success of prominent bands last year, such as Shame, Goat Girl and The Blinders. The album is a fun, raucous adventure to listen to, and the band’s sound has rounded itself into an authentic, daring one. A true homage to what punk fans want, and what the indie industry needs

Purchase/ stream here: https://www.musicglue.com/calvalouise/

 

 

Scathing and Honest, Slaves release their best work since 2012’s debut EP: “Acts Of Fear And Love”

Opening with a venomous, spitting sneer of ‘Oi! What are you doing?,’ Acts Of Fear And Love is the third studio album from Kent old-school punk duo Slaves; it takes you right back to 2015 Slaves days, their classic old school punk feel back for good. Isaac’s ballsy as hell on the album, shouting and spitting into the mic in an almost intimidating way, Laurie’s shouting background vocal more like a second lead vocal. The album draws back a vivacious garage feel, a certain grit embedded throughout. Retaining the DIY hardness of debut album Are You Satisfied?, Acts Of Fear And Love has pushed Slaves back into their original sound, shoving their music into the core of the punk sphere, which their last album Consume Or Be Consumed drew them so far away from.

Laurie and Isaac have managed to deploy something a lot heavier, an element of abrasive skin-headed anger thrashing about in each track. Opening track The Lives They Wish They Had ends with Isaac screeching ‘slaves…slaves!’ over an vividly grungy riff from guitarist Laurie. The band have amped up their use of reverb and distortion on this album, creating something a lot slimier and messier than their last album. Cut And Run is more of a pop track (definitely not ‘pop-punk,’ though), pop as in they use the element of a chorus to create a catchier piece of music; the interesting thing about Slaves is how they’ve always managed to fuse a variety of sounds and sub-genres with their core punk bite. ‘All talk no action, all work no play’ Isaac sings broodily, building the bridge up with his drumming (which he always plays using the wrong end of the sticks).

slaves one

In a search for something more original, the Kent duo have gone down a heavier route in terms of riffs, Laurie’s riffs suggestively leading to a grungy, more old school punk sound. Isaac’s vocal is scratchy and grating; yet the scathing wiry nature of his voice is definitely an overcompensation for the basic nature of the lyrics. Lyrically, there isn’t much intrigue engrained in the album, but is this such a bad thing? Critics may knock Slaves for lacking nuance in their music, and sometimes with a punk band it’s exciting to have lyrically evocative and thought provoking tracks blared out at you, yet Slaves have always been straight up, in your face, and the riffs and enigmatic energy they bring to the album makes up for this. The snarling bite the album has is sonic and electric, the anger and brutality giving it a Sex Pistols/ Slits feel. Punk is an attitude, not a sound, but the 70s punk genre created this wonderfully angry, aggressive sound which is being bought back by the duo.

Daddy has a more acoustic element to it; stripped back guitar, and  a raw exposure of Isaac’s voice. There’s a delicate softness on the track too, induced by the scathingly subtle backing vocals from Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice).  It’s a disconcerting, random track, and whilst it is good in the sense the lyrics tell a weirdly twisted and entertaining story, it feels very out of place on the album. There’s a lot of integrity to this album though, and Slaves seem to have regained a confidence in what they do, and they seem more comfortable and self assured with their sound; it takes me back to debut EP Sugar Coated Bitter Truth, back when they were reckless and abrasive with their music, before having managers and labels to please. Chokehold is one of the best tracks on the album, the classic sharp licks of guitar from Laurie paired with his cocky back up vocal. A lot of the tracks on the album have a fun, take the piss feel, whilst still being serious contenders as proper, punk tracks. The band then brings a bass line in, which adds an extra dimension to the track, giving it more of an eclectic aura. The back up vocal elements are ramped up on this album, Laurie explaining “I wanna play more rock songs, I wanna play power chords, I wanna sing more. We’ve always been dubbed a ‘good live band’ and I want to prove that we’ve got the tunes to back it up.”

I love the anthemic, constructed aspect of Photo Opportunity; it’s been written like a song, rather than a witty, banter infused rant, and if anything, this album has given Isaac and Laurie a new found status as serious songwriters, Isaac explaining “I wanted toslaves two.jpg challenge us, see how far our song writing could go.” Isaac sings more on the track too, bringing his screeches and shouts in, but in a more controlled way which is catchy and compelling. ‘What shall we do today?’ he yells, Laurie softly repeating the question in the background. Artificial Intelligence is already compelling; the name sparks such interesting political questions and connotations, bringing a newfound element of awareness to the album. Old tracks like Cheer Up London and Sugar Coated Bitter Truth exposed an articulate and knowledgeable side to the band, therefore the political and social undertones are welcomed, but not surprising. Opening with a blare of distortion, the guitar is a lot heavier, riff-wise very reminiscent of Wow!!!7am. Laurie shouts blurrily in the background, a style used by bands like H0nkies, LIFE and YOWL. Definitely my favourite on the album, Artificial Intelligence is a lot tougher, a scratchy heaviness grating away at you as a listener. Closing track Acts Of Fear And Love is a perfect finish to such a diverse, complex album. It features pop licks of guitar, unusual chord progressions used alongside Isaac’s low vocal which talks broodily over the music. ‘I was looking out the window, I was watching colours change’ he muses… ‘It’s funny you forget things’. The chorus is a punch of power, the element of contrast in the closing track being sonically gripping and innovative.

Say what you like about the album, it’s impossible to deny it is blazing with confidence and a witty, abrasive humour. What we loved about Slaves when they emerged into the DIY punk scene has returned into the mainstream, and about time too.

Album review: “Love On The Run” by post-punk Londoners Leika

Mixing post punk with synth rock is quite a skill and pretty hard to do, but it’s something Leika do with ease on second album Love On The Run. The band use fun indie rock infused guitar with deep rich bass lines and a saxophone to create a really vivid and unique sound, and channel a range of experimental  post punk sounds especially on tracks such as Boutique. Leika are a really exciting band from London, made up of Keith, Brian, Tom, Rom and Jon. The album (which was released in December 2016) is full of some fantastic tracks, with a range of unique sounds and techniques used throughout. Girls is one of my favourite tracks, with a meticulous guitar riff playing over the feel good rock’n’roll beat from the drums and groovy bass line. The track also features a heavy synth sound which builds up throughout the track, crashing down with the funky jazz sound of the saxophone halfway through. By merging that blaring rippling guitar sound with the saxophone and deep bass, a very fresh, unique sound is created. Synth sounds/ synth-sounding distortions are used throughout too, which I particularly like on Fish Tank and The Cornflake Song. The vocals are very accented too, which helps bring in those classic 70s punk sounds. They almost merge elements of 70s punk with 80s synth pop, which gives their music a really unique and memorable bite. Girls demonstrates this range of skills brilliantly, with the band cleverly intertwining all the individual elements which makes their music so good. I love the saxophone in rock music too, and it’s something so many bands seem to leave out despite the fantastic sound you get from it.

leika-love-on-the-run
Love On The Run, artwork by Martin Grover

Other tracks on the album are a bit heavier, with dark guitar and more vivid raucous riffs with that brooding saxophone backing up the melody brilliantly. This is especially evident on tracks like Ulysses Returning which opens with these brilliantly sharp guitar chords and a deep low vocal which contrasts perfectly with those harsh bursts of guitar. The guitar is very vivid and raucous throughout the album, with that layer of synth over it giving their music a very 80s rock sound. I love the heaviness and intensity of the guitar on Fly, Drops, and Love on The Run, the latter featuring a brilliantly catchy riff from the off. The vocals on Love on The Run (both lead and backup) add to the brilliance of the track; it’s more akin to punk music with a very British sounding accented vocal. The saxophone is especially good on tracks like Glass, Love On The Run (particularly in the chorus) and Remote Control, with a wonderful feel good aura to the tracks. My favourite track on the album would have to be Remote Control, with a fantastic guitar sound tying in perfectly with that rich saxophone sound. I love the chorus to this track too, with the music stopping then resuming suddenly, each individual instrument playing perfectly in sync. The ordered sound and perfect synchronisation each element of the band’s sound has gives the album a very polished well practised (and extremely well-written) sound. The whole album has a very fun head-banging sound to it too; I was actually able to catch Leika live a few months ago, and this aura on the album is channelled brilliantly on stage. The band’s next gig will be on Friday 10th at Water Rats in London.

For more on Leika you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to their music via Spotify, SoundCloud, or iTunes

‘Take Control’ by Slaves: my take on the band’s new album

Kent’s finest punk duo, and certainly one of the generations’ best bands, have recently released their second album, ‘Take Control.’ Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman make up fiery rough two-piece punk band Slaves, with Laurie on guitar and Isaac on drums and vocals. All their music that has come out in the past has been absolutely class, bringing a whole new meaning to the punk-grime genre. They’re heavy and gritty and intense, with a crazy savage presence. In 2012, they released the unofficial album ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth,’ which is one of the finest albums ever released, with tracks like ‘Suicide’ and ‘Black Rose’ which will blow your mind. The album was referred to as their ‘Bleach’ by Wonk Unit’s Alex, and he was right. It’s a pure explosion of energy and hard-core punk, with a vicious undertone to it. 2015’s ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is equally as raw and intense. Full of tracks like ‘Live Like An Animal,’ ‘The Hunter,’ ‘Sockets’ and ‘Wow!!! 7am’ it stands out on its own. It can’t really be linked back to any band and that’s the great thing about Slaves. They’ve stuck to their roots, with uncompromising, unorthodox punk which is raw, rough, and pure.

album-4

Because of their incredible discography, including unreleased tracks from pre-2012, like ‘Bad Machine’ and ‘How’s Amelia?, the hype for ‘Take Control’ was unreal. Just a year on since they released their debut, Laurie and Isaac have come back with ‘Take Control’. It’s been building up for well over a year now; the band debuted ‘Spit It Out’ B-side ‘Facing The Wall’ at Reading festival last year, and have already played ‘Rich Man’ at a variety of shows over the summer. Before the album came out on Friday (September 30th), four tracks had been released from it; ‘Spit It Out,’ ‘People That You Meet,’ ‘Take Control’ and ‘Consume or Be Consumed.’ From those tracks alone, I was convinced the album would be incredible; the filthy grit and rawness of the tracks convinced me ‘Take Control’ would be outstanding. But when I heard it, honestly it didn’t blow me away at all. Some tracks are incredible- ‘Play Dead and ‘Same Again’ are personal favourites. But others, like ‘Angelica’ and ‘Cold Hard Floor’ are a bit mediocre and rushed in my opinion. Some parts of the album have an element of laziness about them, almost as if Isaac and Laurie had a passive attitude when recording. Following up such a killer debut is hard, but can be done; just look at bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen and Arctic Monkeys. To be completely honest, it was a disappointment listening to the album- some parts just sounded a bit samey and normal, it didn’t seem as if any boundaries had been broken and the increased usage of synth sounds and drum machines did make me worried the band may have lost their DIY edge on record. Live, they are incredible still and I don’t thing they ever will lose that appeal. But the lacklustre bite of the album has been a disappointment; it’s quite hit and miss, with a pretty bland sound overall. Other elements of it are fantastic though, with critiques of the sound being quite basic. First off, the artwork is stunning. Designed by Laurie, who is a wonderfully talented artist (check out his Young Lovers Club range) it’s striking, and powerful and almost intimidating. It’s so boldly noticeable, with a savage intriguing aura about it. The balaclava has been a repeated theme in his artwork and its intense striking look definitely matches some of the lyrics in the album. ‘Rich Man’ and ‘Consume or Be Consumed’ have such fantastic lyrics, with a sort of revolutionary rebellious anarchic sound behind them. It’s just a shame the overall album couldn’t live up to some of the album’s individual elements which are mind-blowing.

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Track by track review

1)cSpit It Out

The first single to be released from the album, ‘Spit It Out’ is an immense deep dark track, with an absolutely mental guitar sound. It’s screechy and rough, and perfect for crazy hectic mosh pits. Lyrics like ‘pull yourself together boy you’re only 23’ are so real and gritty, and the track is such a pure punk rock piece. Isaac’s voice as well is rough and gritty, with Laurie’s tenacious screams in the background adding to the thrill of ‘Spit It Out’.

2) Hypnotised

The track starts with this roaring guitar bass line before Isaac kicks in with the heavy blaring drums. His voice is low and blurred, paired with an immense heavy guitar. His screams of ‘fuck no!’ accompanied with his spoken words ‘no thanks’ make the track so real and vivid and rough. The track reminds me a lot of ‘Ninety Nine’ from their debut, with its heavy shrieking screams of ‘Hypnotised TV! Hypnotised HD! Hypnotised 3G!’

3) Consume or Be Consumed

Just 13 seconds in you get Isaac’s iconic scream ripping through Laurie’s heavy bass line, which to me is one of the best riffs on the album. This track is the closest on the album to hip-hop and grime, with Isaac rapping over the heavy guitar and slower drums, with the lines ‘I’ve got the whole fucking scene on my dinner plate, try and imitate intimidate and get incinerate.’ Halfway through Isaac shouts ‘cut both my legs off’ followed by his graphic screaming and sound of a rotating saw. It’s such a brilliantly messy track, with great connotations of what humans have become with the line ‘consume, or be consumed.’ The only part I’m not 100% keen on is Mike D’s rap- it adds nothing to the track, but it’s easy to forget that mediocrity as it’s followed by Isaac’s gritty raspy brawls and the lines ‘you will consume, you will eat what you are fed, breathing in the dirty air people’ and ‘eat it! Take control’

4) Take Control

The album’s title track is a proper Slaves track, with the heavy guitar and Isaac’s scream of ‘taaake control’ in the chorus. Laurie’s in the back, with the line ‘take control’ after each of Isaac’s lines, similar to the structure of ‘Beauty Quest’ and ‘Despair and Traffic’. It’s such a heavy track, with a really great ferocious drum beat. The only problem with the track is it’s far too short! Like a true Slaves track, the lyrics are so blunt and honest too, like ‘maybe it’s a setup, maybe it’s a hoax, talking to the manager, laughing at his jokes’ as well as ‘questioning my sanity, questioning my health’

5) Mr Industry (Skit)

Skits are always something Slaves have been into, and they definitely explored that a lot more on this album, starting with ‘Mr Industry.’ Featuring the lines ‘oh here he is Mr Industry, oh I fucking hate the industry,’ it’s a simple addition to the album, but still channels their aggression and power

6) Rich Man

‘Rich Man! I’m not your bitch man’- what a lyric. Laurie’s guitar on this track, especially at the very end of the chorus, is pure fire. Lines like ‘he keeps his money in an offshore account, don’t want the taxman to see the amount’ are so relevant to the current-day political climate, with Slaves bluntly addressing this in their music. Their punk lyrics are there too, especially with the lyric ‘he sucks the marrow out of blood soaked bones’. It’s such a real track, addressing all sorts of problems; ‘Rich Man’ has this really honest blunt truthfulness to it, and is a great track at gigs too. It’s slightly slower paced, but in turn gives Laurie a chance to play more complex riffs which he channels throughout the track

7) Play Dead

‘Play Dead’ is genuinely one of my favourites, just because of the grittiness of the guitar. It’s really heavy and such an intense head-banger. The lyrics are predominately ‘too connected, disconnected, switch it on, switch it off’ and I love the anger behind this, basically saying people are becoming so connected and intertwined that they’re losing their actual connections in real life. Isaac’s voice is on form yet again; the build-up of his wild screams at the end showcases that incredibly raspy voice he has, making the savage intense punk sound on the record even stronger

8) Lies

This track is a weird one for me- a bit hit and miss. The guitar riff is great, and really catchy but after a while it does get a bit repetitive. The lyrics are good, but they don’t come across as that bold or archaic as the actual tune gets a bit same old. It’s not a boring track, and the repetitive guitar riff is certainly not monotonous. Just there’s something missing, which to me comes down to the guitar. At around the two-minute mark, the guitar changes slightly but the soft backing vocals that kick in, and the start of that same riff again make the track a little bit lacking in that rough punk quality which tracks like ‘Take Control’ and ‘Spit it Out’ possess

9) Fuck The Hi-Hat

The lyrics are funny with this track, and the burst of intensity makes it seem like a perfect track for moshing to at gigs. But there’s something about it that makes it seem like they’re just taking the piss (which is funny as it comes across as a light hearted track) yet Laurie’s guitar is still great. I feel like Laurie’s really improved as a guitarist, but if you listen back to tracks like ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘Suicide’ it does make some of the riffs on the album feel a little bit weak

10) Gary (Skit)

This piece is another skit, starting with the line ‘the person trying to contact you is standing outside’ in a mimicked American accent. The person who voiced the skit is actually Olly, who most people know as Slaves’ mantaray and old merch guy. It’s a little joke piece the band have just chucked in there, but that’s the frustrating bit- it’s all over the place, with random pieces and riffs, kind of messy in a lazy rushed way. Nothing wrong with the skits, but to me they just doesn’t quite fit in

11) People That You Meet

This track actually features Wolf Alice’s Joel on drums, meaning there are two drummers playing at the same time. And unlike the last few tracks, it’s a refreshing piece of Slaves-style punk. They keep in their humour and banter, joking about the lady in the sex shop with a beard, and with Isaac cheekily shouting about producer Mike D ‘he used to be a Beastie Boy but now he works for me.’ The guitar is really heavy and such a raw catchy riff, which is such a key factor in good Slaves tracks. It’s just a really fun track, which behind the comedic edge has fantastic guitar and a really heavy grime-style sound.

12) Steer Clear

Honestly, I really hate this track. It sounds nothing like Slaves at all, and whilst adapting and changing as a band isn’t a bad thing this track is just a bit bland and basic and monotonous. The lyrics are good, but the guitar and synth sounds and automated drums just sound shit. Part of the band’s incredible sound comes from the heavy guitar and Isaac’s aggressive thrashing of the drums, paired with his gritty raw screaming. None of those classic Slaves elements appear in ‘Steer Clear’, instead they’ve been compromised for something deathly dull and actually hard to listen to

13) Cold Hard Floor

Again, I’m not too big a fan of this track. Isaac’s vocals are good, really gritty and raspy and harsh, but the guitar and drums are a bit slow and boring. The track is really bland and repetitive, and it doesn’t stir or evoke anything at all. Part of me thinks the track is so dull and, unlike their other tracks, maybe it’s just a piss-take, but because some elements of it are good, like the lyrics, it seems unlikely. It’s a shame because I expected a lot more from this album, but it’s tracks like this which have let me down. Isaac’s barks and screams near the end are good, but not paired with the basicness of the track; it just doesn’t flow like a piece of punk music I’m used to hearing from Slaves

14) STD’s and PHD’s

Luckily this is the part where the album picks itself back up, with a great heavy track: STD’s/PHD’s. It’s got a more synthetic sound, but actually works so well; this is because the synth sounds really good, not bland and artificial, and Isaac’s raw voice rips through those hard-core punk lyrics. To be completely honest, I’d prefer the tune and vocals to be with heavier drumming and an actual guitar riff, but the transition to the more synth sound works well on this track- yes it could be heavier, but it’s retained their raw rough bite through the lyrics and grittiness of the vocals.

15) Angelica

I don’t even know what to say about this track- it’s so weak and bland it’s easier to think of it as a joke rather than accept it’s a serious piece of music. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, the vocals are messy and come off as lazy, and the drumming is on a synth machine. It works so badly to me, and hasn’t got any of those raw DIY punk ethics the band display partially throughout the album. Lines like ‘she’ll do whatever it takes, bend over backwards for you’ are  evocative though, and the connotations behind the ‘bloodsucker’ character are really interesting, and lyrically it’s a pretty vibrant piece. Laurie’s guitar solo is quite boring and sounds so basic though; aside from the lyrics, there’s nothing in ‘Angelica’ which pushes the boundaries the duo are known for breaking. Hopefully Isaac’s laugh at the end means it’s a joke track, as in all honesty, it’s a bit crap.

16) Same Again

Like the album starts on a high, it finishes on one too; they definitely chose the best track to end the album. ‘Same Again’ is insane- it’s messy, rough and a proper Slaves-punk style head banger. The DIY punk sound is kept as they have the heavy guitar, drum smashing, and authentic rough vocals. It’s such a messy track with blistering guitar throughout. The screams and heaviness of that guitar two-and-a-half minutes in takes you right back to ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ time, brilliantly reminiscent of ‘White Knuckle Ride.’ The line ‘same again, week in week out’ is so evocative and emotive; it’s just a fantastically gripping track, with Isaac screaming his frustration at ‘thinking out loud about a disease’ but ‘thank fuck I’m OK.’

Top tracks: ‘Hypnotised,’ ‘Play Dead’ and ‘Same Again’

Album rating: ★★★☆☆

You can purchase the album from their website, or listen via iTunes or Spotify

Roaring, energetic and sexy: ‘The Ride’ by Catfish and The Bottlemen reviewed

Van, Bondy, Bob and Benji have created the best piece of raucous, indie rock feel good music this year with their second album ‘The Ride,’ follow up to 2014’s stellar debut ‘The Balcony.’ The album has a gripping appeal with a really vivid, exciting quality; it’s proper heavy indie rock which is really aimed at young people. It’s almost frustrating reading the more negative reviews from older writers when the album is clearly aimed at young people- the quality and tone of ‘The Ride’ is fresh and blunt, with roaring choruses and catchy and sexy riffs. The lyrics focus on love and lust and cigarettes, and although they aren’t deeply poetic or metaphorically lyrical, this doesn’t necessarily lessen the quality of the album. I’ve seen so many negative reviews, describing the album as ‘lazy’ and ‘unimpressive,’ and to be honest these reviews have really annoyed me; the album’s not meant to be a nice album that everyone gets and likes, it’s meant to make young people get up and drink with their mates and go out to gigs and go mad, that’s the band’s aura. They don’t claim to be the world’s best band, but they don’t need to say that for their thousands of fans to know that actually, they are.

the-ride

The guitar is ridiculously catchy and Van’s voice has this really edgy, raspy bite which has grown and developed so much since their debut. Bondy and Benji on guitar are truly fantastic as well, with some great riffs which will be filling out stadiums in no time, made perfect by Bob’s brilliantly skilled drumming. But the band haven’t completely changed since ‘The Balcony’; ‘The Ride’ has simple riffs and not overly complex lyrics, but it works brilliantly. It’s simple, proper rock music with a great feel good vibe. Some tracks are heavy and loud, perfect for moshing; the band’s live appeal is undeniable and tracks like ‘Soundcheck’ and ‘Twice’ have been going down incredibly at the band’s recent live shows, with crazy sweaty moshing and circle pits. But they also have a softer, more delicate sound which they showcase beautifully in tracks like ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Glasgow.’ Overall it’s a striking, vivid album with a great pure authentic indie rock edge to it. The band had built up such a huge hype for the album and they have 100% delivered.

Top tracks: ‘Postpone,’ ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Outside’

★★★★☆