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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EVANGELIST – Ad Mortem Festinamus

The simple and heavy approach of doom metal often lends itself to a “live in the studio” sound. When you consider how many doom and sludge bands have taken their cues from the first two Black Sabbath albums and Rodger Bain’s pioneering but minimalistic production style, it sort of makes sense that many working within these often insanely heavy subgenres would take a quick, no-frills approach to recording. That’s not always the case with Evangelist. The mysterious and Lovecraft obsessed Polish doom merchants took two years to record their debut album across various sessions, and although later releases came together in a more streamlined way, nothing was ever completed on the quick and the cheap.

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PAVID VERMIN – The Beach Boys Never Surfed EP

For a lot of musicians, 2020 became about making the best of a bad situation. With a global pandemic putting gigs on hold and stopping bands getting together in dedicated rehearsal spaces and studios, people began to work in isolation. That’s easy enough when you’re someone like Jeff Lynne, a multi-instrumentalist with a state of the art home setup and a loyal audience who’ll wait years for your new record, but not quite so convenient when you’re a punk musician who’s used to having close buddies and the interaction with a small crowd in small basement venues.

The lack of outside world didn’t stop Glenn Robinson. The prolific punker went into overdrive throughout the year and with his one man band, Pavid Vermin, set about creating a string of releases that called back to a classic 90s sound. Having already released ‘Throw Me In The Trash’ before lockdown hit, he kept up momentum with the largely excellent ‘Cutting Corners’, a classic pop-punk disc calling back to the glory days of Lookout! Records, and ‘Lookout! Pavid Vermin Ruins Some Songs’ – almost the very thing Pavid Vermin was created for: a covers album featuring material written by many of your favourite bands.

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SUSPENSE HEROES SYNDICATE / SKARFACE – Christmas Fight Diary EP

Casting their net far across Europe to bring you a selection of Yuletide jollies, this EP from Laketown Records presents four previously unreleased tracks from two cult ska bands. For this festive split, French ska punks Skarface go head to head with Russia’s relative newcomers Suspense Heroes Syndicate in a high octane musical bout – a musical face off in which only one band can be the victor.

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GALLOWS BIRDS – Quaranteenage Kicks

In the summer of 2020, the world was in a state of flux. People who’d normally be out at the beach or taking other vacations found themselves at home due to a global pandemic calling time on big social activities. That meant gigs were genuinely off the table, and with bands unable to congregate in recording studios, even the act of making records became more difficult. During lockdown, the members of Gallows Birds found themselves on different continents, but even with songwriter Travis Woods being stuck at home in North Carolina, vocalist Richie Holes at a loose end in New York and drummer Glenn Wellman living in South Africa, the miracles of technology allowed them to join forces…and their debut album was born.

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