Kicking off with a beautifully overdriven, edge-of-break-up Tube Screamer-esque guitar tone and kicking drums, Godzukey’s ‘Alibi’ is a proper old-school grungy rock track, all laconic vocals and doomy, portentous bass and guitars. There’s an occasional hint at Mudhoney in the voicing of the fuzzed-up repeating guitar motif, some gentle nods to early Pearl Jam or Mother Love Bone, and a serious bit of guitar-hero shredding from Conrad Bylsma on the playout solo from around 3’30”. Singer/songwriter Jonas Briggs has a perfect early Foo Fighters/Nirvana/Alice In Chains vibe going on around the vocal delivery, but it should be said loudly and clearly: this isn’t simply a retro-reworking of Seattle’s great and good.
There’s a freshness here, too, a contemporary take on that West Coast sound which presumably comes from the creative kick of new connections and neoteric projects. Briggs and Bylsma reconnected to form Godzukey recently, after years of not playing together, recording the EP from which ‘Alibi’ is taken from the ‘music Briggs was carrying around in his head’, and that novel vibrancy comes through in the rawness of the track’s delivery. In Godzukey Portland, Oregon, might just have spawned a new baby monster.
After a career spanning 25 years Medieval Baebes return with this, their tenth album, and the first to feature solely original compositions. Recorded during the ‘wilderness months’ of a pandemic-lockdowned 2020, in the spiritual, legend-shrouded lodestone of Glastonbury, the twelve tracks on ‘Prayers Of The Rosary’ stylishly mix Christian liturgical plainsong with the Latin prayers of the rosary of the album’s title.
It’s a stunning piece of work. Beautiful, haunting vocal performances mix with traditional instruments such as lyres, ouds, and Chinese pipa, sitting alongside church bells, field-recorded nature sounds, and unusual additions such as bagpipes and even a hurdy gurdy. Composed and produced by founding member Katharine Blake and featuring the additional performances of multi-instrumentalists Michael J York (The Utopia Strong, Coil, Teleplasmiste) and Charlie Cawood (Anathema, Lost Crowns, Knifeworld), ‘Prayers Of The Rosary’ is at once meditative and uplifting, spiritual yet psychedelic, introspective yet buoyant. In a world of twenty-second soundbites, social media engagement analytics, and disposable everything, ‘Prayers Of The Rosary’ might just be the antidote we didn’t realise we needed all along.
Sheffield’s charismatically abrasive instigators of volatile Psychedelic No Wave, FEMUR, amped up the intensity and visceral fortitude of their sound with their latest release ‘Misery Express’, allowing me to finally experience something more disquieted than my own mind during lockdown 2.0.
With psychedelic melodicism acting as the glue which keeps the savagely caustic tapestry together, Misery Express pairs a tundra of rampantly thrashed over-driven guitars with creeping tones which allow you to sit in anticipation for the next monumental breakdown. It’s heavy enough to give the Berzerker a run for their money, all the while exuding an Avant-Garde noisy edge which has become synonymous with FEMUR’s sound.
The lockdown-born track perfectly emulates the proclivity of misery; the full-frontal scathing volition and those moments between where you’re able to catch a breath, but your mind is still dizzied by rage.
Alt-Rock newcomers Running Alive’s debut album ‘Dreams from Outer Space’, featuring the lead single ‘Affluent’ has finally dropped and proven that maturity in the industry is far too overrated. It’s easily one of the most dynamic Alt-Rock releases we’ve heard this year. At the age of 13-years-old, the members of the powerhouse trio smashed the misconception that it takes decades of experience to offer nuance through music.
With biting metal energy melding with grungy yet melodic Indie tones which pay ode to the Alt 90s, Affluent is an undeniable testament to the artists ability to bring intense authenticity to the airwaves. It’s visceral, it’s intuitive, and you’ll feel every ounce of the angst-fuelled emotion merging with your own.
After hearing Affluent, I felt far more confident about the future of Alt-Rock. I have no doubt that this won’t be the last we’ll hear from Running Alive. Get them on your radar.
You can check out Affluent along with Running Alive’s debut album via Spotify.
US Indie multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer and Grammy-nominated songwriter Stükenberg’s latest release “Blind Unity” operates on a celestial level. Hit play and you’ll feel the pure weight of the emotion it contains crawl beneath your ribs as you drink in the idyllic peace-inspiring tone.
The mellow progressions prop up Stükenberg’s resounding vocals as they bring harmony to the conversational lyricism which offers so much imagery Blind Unity becomes so much more than an aural experience.
His succinct way of reflecting reality and commonality back at you is practically unparalleled. Emotion and introspection are fed in fragments, but together, they weave an intricate tapestry which illustrates the frustrations of navigating 2020. Ultimately, Blind Unity is an invitation to put rise above the hysterical partisan ideals and misconceptions which is tearing our society apart more than whoever is sitting in the White House ever could.
You can check out Blind Unity which is part of Stükenberg’s 2020 album Double Plus Panic via Spotify.
Indie Hip Hop artist Mikey dropped their soul-searching single “Sacrifices” earlier this year. With plenty of humbling and inspiring Hip Hop in the pipeline, there has never been a better time to jump on their sound.
With the repetition of the question “why me?” Mikey hammers home the injustice in the disparity of fairness. But within the verses of the cutting Indie Hip Hop single you’ll find positivity which allows the listener to realise that despite how unfair the hand you’ve been dealt or what struggles are put in front of you, you have the power to overcome them.
With old school bluesy tantalising guitar tones finding synergy with the concise Trap beats, the instrumentals offer plenty of depth, but that aural alchemy is nothing in comparison to the powerful lyricism which is forceful enough to seismically shift your mindset.
You can check out the official video to Sacrifices by heading over to YouTube.
With a cinematic Jazz ensemble quiescently quivering beneath a poetically enticing spoken-word monologue, The Spice Cabinet’s latest release, “Bittersweet”, is captivating from the intro.
From there on out, the Neo-Classic soundscape demonstrates its efficaciousness in arresting your rhythmic pulses with the subtle yet striking fluctuations in zeal and style, leaving you eager, but assured, you’re in masterfully safe aural hands.
With the nuance exhibited in Bittersweet, it comes as no surprise that Beijing’s 11-piece award-winning Jazz fusion collective have amassed plenty of acclaim. Frontman, arranger, pianist and trombonist Terry Hsieh is able to bring modernism to a genre consistently perceived as archaic. Perhaps more pertinently, he is able to make a plaything of your psyche through his ingenuity.
Rage Against the Machine may be consistently be heralded as the ultimate political Alt-Rock act, but the visceral aural empowerment which stems from Phantom Electric’s single “Modern Culture” is just as adrenalizing.
Expect broiling buzzsaw riffs, frenetically super-charged drums and a growlingly ominous bassline which demands that Modern Culture is blasted at max volume for the ultimate hit of protest punk catharsis.
Feel the furore in the sonically tight arrangement which throws plenty of virtuosic tumultuous breakdowns your way in between the massive choruses which will undoubtedly be a hit with any fans of Deftones, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Nine Inch Nails.
Modern Culture hits so hard it might just knock some sense into the Alt-Right. The Atlanta-based act who made their debut in 2013 isn’t just one to watch, they’re one to get behind.
You can check out Modern Culture which dropped as a double A-side release with “Lie”, which also attacks the state of America’s increasingly fragile socio-political atmosphere via SoundCloud.
Seattle-based Hip Hop artist Shade Apollo released their latest single Straight out of the Coffin on Friday the 13th, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more transfixing 2020 dark Hip Hop drop.
With phantasmic reverb creeping behind their nihilistically feverish Rap bars as lines such as “I know I can break the cycle, but the nightmare never ends” are delivered, Shade Apollo offers a gripping ominous sound complete with heartbreakingly resonant lyrics.
For anyone who knows how relentless the grip of depression and anxiety is, that line will hit bruisingly hard while handing you the affirmation that you aren’t alone in your perpetual cycle of suffering.
With Shade Apollo’s influences ranging from everyone to Marilyn Manson to $uicideboy$, he’s bridged the gap between urban and alternative with Straight out of the Coffin. Which may make their sound ‘niche’ to some, but I can guarantee it will be as evocative and powerful to others as it was to me.
You can check out the official video to Straight out of the Coffin via YouTube.
There was no forgetting Epsom, UK Alt-Indie artist Versonic after we heard their magnetic Indie Shoegaze track, A Second in Time in 2018. This time, they’re back with even more harmonic motion and sonorous lyrical depth with their single “Seen it All”.
Perceptibly, 2020 has had a profound effect on the already highly acclaimed award-winning songwriter Stephen Connor. If you’ve been fraught with ennui recently, it may just feel like the lyricism has been taken from your own unshockable mind which scarcely knows how to react to atrocity anymore.
Despite the resilient upbeat vitality of Seen It All, there’s no retracting the striking melancholy from the lyrics. But that’s not to say that you won’t find plenty of soul-soothing accordance in the driving, cavernous, radiant track which will definitely appeal to any fans of the Alt 90s sound.
Seen It All is available to stream and purchase via Bandcamp.