Justin Kline returns with Dungeon of Skeletons

Those of you with long memories will remember Justin Kline.  The Nashville based singer songwriter built upon his cult following with an excellent power pop EP, ‘Triangle’, back in 2010.  By 2012, he’d reinvented himself in a rockier guise as frontman of the short-lived Weezer-esque Origami Hologram.

Justin seemed to be one of those people that showed a natural flair, regardless of whatever musical subgenre he approached, but following a release of home demos and a self-depreciating EP ‘Doormat’ in 2013, he seemed to disappear.

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RYAN ALLEN – What A Rip

Following a handful of ragged but enjoyable albums with his band Extra Arms, Ryan Allen released his most personal work to date in 2019 when ‘Up From Here’ documented his emotional regrouping following a divorce. Essentially punk pop’s answer to Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, the record had introspective qualities, but had enough musical clout to entertain the kind of listener that doesn’t listen to lyrics. In short, almost everything about it suggested that Allen had reached full potential as both a songwriter and musician. Then, in quick succession, Allen threw out three more releases containing a barrage of cover tunes and scrappy songs which, in his own words, were “written in a flurry during life in lockdown”. Aside from being keen to move on, it almost seemed as if he wanted to cast aside ‘Up From Here’s musical maturity.

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THE LICKERISH QUARTET – Threesome Vol. 2 EP

When The Lickerish Quartet made their first appearance in the spring of 2020, power pop fans around the world rejoiced. Not only because this new band had tapped into some brilliant and shiny pop sounds worthy of 10cc and their ilk, but rather more specifically because The Lickerish Quartet reunited the much-celebrated trio of Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Tim Smith and Eric Dover – all of whom had previous connections with 90s scene makers Jellyfish.

Their debut EP, ‘Threesome, Vol. 1’ brought out the best in their combined talents. There were the obvious nods to their Jellyfish and Imperial Drag pasts throughout, but with a little less bombast, the release offered a selection of timeless pop. Its best track, ‘Bluebird’s Blues’, sounded rather like Crowded House with its semi-acoustic backbone and rich harmonies, suggesting that Tim Smith and Lickerish Quartet drummer Jeremy Stacey had absorbed a little of their influence while working with The Finn Brothers in 2005. It wasn’t Jellyfish, but very little is – nor was it ever intended to be – but as a selection of retro pop tunes in its own right, it really worked.

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THE ARTHUR BROTHERS – Nine

What would happen if you took some of the moodier aspects of Doves, the slightly alternative leanings of Arcade Fire, the grandiosity of U2 and a dual vocal that occasionally disarms the listener by featuring one voice sounding like Robbie Williams? Chances are, you’d end up with something that sounded something like ‘Ninth’, the opening track from ‘Nine’ by The Arthur Brothers. As far as first impressions go, it’s really striking – a reminder that adult pop/rock need not be bland. Better yet, although the track features elements of all of the above, The Arthur Brothers don’t really sound like a blatant copy of any of them. Here is a band who’ve somehow, against the odds, taken a lot of familiar sounding things but used them in such an inventive way, they rarely sound like anything other than themselves. ‘Ninth’ spends its five minutes wisely and fairly concisely; despite wedging at least three different ideas within the one track it never sounds forced. From a listening perspective, whether you choose to be absorbed the deep drum track, the echoing guitar lines or find yourself caught up in a great vocal melody that eventually descends into a simple wordless hook, there’s always something interesting going on. By the time the climax is reached where the band manage to weave complex harmonies in and out of a moody groove that sounds somehow like ‘AM’ era Arctic Monkeys, you really get the feeling that the gloves are off with regards to style. This is an album that promises so much, right from the start.

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GHOST DANCE COLLECTIVE – Getting By EP

Ghost Dance Collective’s self titled release from 2018 was a joyously retro affair. Its mix of 60s riffs, reverb and haziness combined with a late 80s indie cool created a great sound. Their all-round retro cool and occasional Byrds-ish jangle would almost certainly appeal to lovers of the classic output from Creation Records, and although traces of bands like The Brilliant Corners could be heard, it was more than clear that this was a band with more than enough of their own talents.

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