Help I'm Alive
Anna C gets all flustered

ISAAC’S AIRCRAFT- Friends and foes EP

It is hard to believe that Isaac’s Aircraft have an average age of 19-years-old because they sound like four guys who have been playing in a band for a while. Perhaps they were writing songs in their nappies, I don’t know. Based on this, they could well have been. A generally fast-paced jog through Indie Land, the songs are well written and arranged to a very impressive standard, confirmed by the recent appreciation shown by BBC 6 Music, which can’t fail to be a thrill to such a young band. However, claiming to be influenced heavily by anyone from Chopin to The Arcade Fire to Fast Food Rockers, they actually end up sounding rather more generic than either (well, possibly not Fast Food Rockers), though that’s not to say Isaac’s Aircraft aren’t any good, just not anything new- a typical nod to many guitar-based bands of the recent era. That said, with strong melodic vocals and piano the foundation for each track, it can’t be disputed that this is definitely a band to watch. It will just depend on your taste -(and probably how closely you have followed the British music scene in the last decade)- whether you will think that they are a band to get excited about. Certainly, as they progress musically, which they no doubt will do in the future, they have a lot of potential to become more convincing.

Released 6th April, 2009

ROD THOMAS- Until something fits EP

This man made the ingenious move and appeared alongside sock puppets in the video for his recent single ‘Same old lines’ (AKA the catchiest song you will hear this year played on a ukelele) and I, for one, have been hooked ever since. The perfect antidote to the drab bits of life, cue Rod Thomas with his infectious brand of adorable pop music; wonderful upbeat melodies playing happily amongst a range of twinkling instruments and warm, friendly harmonies to be silly in the face of all the bad stuff in life (did I mention the sock puppets?). Must be a Welsh thing.

A new twist on the male-singer songwriter, Mr Thomas combines a cynical approach and tired outlook to come out with something which amazingly ends up sounding ten times fresher than his dull contemporaries and so completely betraying his subject matter, only matched by Herman Dune or the dearly departed St Thomas. With lyrics describing all that is wrong with the fake people- all of whom seem to have broken his heart- it is up to the tunes to lift the spirits in the face of things and this the tunes do a very good job of. Crammed with positivity and ridiculous amounts of restless energy, the beautiful poignancy that is most apparent in the reflective ‘Hints of him’ remains in a subtle form alongside the electronic disco romp ‘Love is a tease’ and the irrepressible ‘Good coat’ to appeal to the youngest baby right up to the indie fan of Noah and The Whale or The Guillemots and beyond to those who see the inner meaning in his music. All this, along with endorsements from the likes of Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq, make Rod someone who, with the right breaks, should achieve full commercial success if that’s what he’s after. Just don’t bother listening to the remixes on the end. They didn’t happen, OK?

Released 2nd March, 2009

RISE AGAINST- Audience of one

Zane Lowe and Mike Davies like this apparently. Not that I would know because listening to Zane Lowe is, for me, like someone scraping their fingers down a chalkboard. I simply cannot bear it. Anyway, that aside, it doesn’t make Chicago’s Rise Against particularly credible in my opinion either, confirmed by hearing this, their latest single from their fifth album, ‘Appeal to reason’, something for fans of American singalong tunes saluting Fall Out Boy, with the voice, and passion, of Nickelback. Yes, they’re accomplished musicians who do the loud, melodic rock guitar and impressive drum thing rather well, and they’re obviously hardworking as they have been going about 10 years, but it’s almost like they have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for any kind of success. Again, I personally know bands that would make better use of radio airtime and it makes me angry that merely pristine production and a big enough budget is enough to convince people your band are worth listening to. I won’t use a pun for ‘Audience of one’, however tempting, as it seems as predictable as this song but this is the sort of stuff that will obviously do alright regardless.

Released 2nd March, 2009

TOMMY REILLY- Give me a call

Tommy Reilly was the rather greasy 19-year-old Scotsman who was voted winner of Orange Unsigned Act- you remember? That rather rubbish programme on T4 that you used to enjoy scoffing at when hungover, the one that made you realise that Alex James was definitely a cheese farmer these days, in case you needed any convincing? Anyway, Mr Reilly only ended up winning a record deal with Universal Music’s A and M and, leading up to his first album release in June, has come out with what is, admittedly, a catchy little number which he seems to have worked very hard to create.

That said, I wonder if it is enough to make people like him that much. Likened to a young Bob Dylan by one of the judges on the show best demonstrates that industry officials don’t always know what they’re on about, a rather obvious comparison as it is just him and a guitar. If said industry official knew their music stuff, they might have said that he isn’t doing anything that Frank Turner and artists of his ilk have been doing better for years, writing clever stories about love and life, in this case urging someone to “gimme a call”, perhaps predictably. Still, he is good at what he does and, although not the most interesting thing I have ever heard, hopefully bringing his music to the mainstream will bring deserved attention to the musicians who are already out there.

Released 23rd February, 2009

FEDERAL BLACK 40- Just drive EP

Federal Black 40 (or FB40 for short) have certainly been taken to the hearts both of the gig-going kiddies and more discerning rock fan recently, with their strong breed of uncomplicated rock and roll. Having sprung to the public’s attention after local support slots with Jackson United and Soulfly, these four lads from Cambridge have proved that what you need to come out singing is chugging riffs, fast-paced beats and a singer who sounds like Lemmy chewing on the shards of a bottle that someone incidentally possibly just broke over his head. Matching black shirts seem to be very important too.

Their perfect mix of conviction, energy and a smidgeon of underlying anger, means that they translate well to a younger audience, whilst maintaining classic influences to attract a more mature listener. With uncomplicated rock and roll action high on the agenda, even Bruce Dickinson has been widdling his air guitar along to their relentless metal mayhem and, though their influences are clear -ranging from shouty post-punk to, at times, an impressive QOTSA-inspired punch- when singer Dan growls “I am the one you’ve been waiting for” (on EP opener, er, ‘The one’) no-one can doubt that he means it. Something exciting could well happen for this lot. Definitely one to keep your eye on.

METRIC- Help I’m alive

Apparently, Metric are what artistic freedom sounds like, a result of a band sticking it to a few lucrative record deals following the release of their critically-acclaimed album, “Live it out”, and setting up their very own label, meaning that they can release what they want, when they want. And who can blame them in today’s music industry? So, you heard it here first: artistic freedom, at least on this occasion, sounds like something straight from the year punk broke circa 1991, featuring the brooding energy of Sonic Youth and The Breeder’s command of melody as their muses, falling not quite next to the commercially viable nor underground secret act, and so perhaps holding some kind of appeal to fans of both.
Whilst the lyrical content doesn’t offer much more than “Help, I’m alive/ My heart keeps beating like a hammer”, the debut single taken from their forthcoming new album “Fantasies” proves that repetition here is a sure way to make music catchy. Singer Emily Haines’ too-cool-for-school vocals writhe amongst a pleasant blend of indie-electro and sing-a-long pop, successfully entrancing the listener long enough to distract them from the fact that, in reality, the track is merely one long chorus, which, though not necessarily making you feel alive- instead maybe a little baffled somehow- is worth future delving to see what else Metric have come up with.

Released on itunes 9th February, 2009; picture 7’ released 9th March, 2009.

Anna C