THE RIVEN – Windbreaker / Moving On

In terms of quality, The Riven’s self-titled record from 2019 was streets ahead of their debut EP. Although both releases are solid in terms of playing and song writing, the album vastly outshone the EP in terms of production values and vocal performances. This suggested The Riven’s third release had the potential for a few incendiary riffs. Although that third release turned out to be a two song stop-gap, in terms of old style sounds, both ‘Windbreaker’ and ‘Moving On’ (issued on a strictly limited vinyl in August 2020) really doesn’t disappoint.

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STATE COWS – Challenges

State Cows have been making excellent westcoast/yacht rock music since 2010. Always unashamed in their retro-ness, the band have delighted fans across the world with various self-penned homages to Toto, Steely Dan and late 70s Doobie Brothers. There’s nothing obviously original about the Cows’ choice of style, but there’s no denying they do it better than most…and even after so many years, the fact that this most American of sounds was perfected somewhere in Sweden is a fact that still amazes.

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HOUSE OF SHAKIRA – Radiocarbon

House of Shakira’s ninth album ‘Radiocarbon’ comes some twenty two years after their debut. This means this lesser known band’s career has effectively been longer than some of the classic melodic rock/AOR acts of the 80s heyday. On the basis of ‘Radiocarbon’, they still love what they do…and if you’re a fan of big melodic riffs with a Swedish bent, chances are you will too. Although the album appears to have been mastered far too loudly – a somewhat common complaint in this digital age – the songs are, by and large, terrific. That’s enough to make the album stand among HoS’s best.

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JANICE PRIX – Nobody Would Know EP

Indie pop band Janice Prix weren’t exactly accepted by their local crowd at first. Deciding to create synth heavy sounds with clean vocals and big pop hooks didn’t exactly endear them to their neighbourhood and a scene full of metal oriented bands. If there’s something the Swedes have always been good at, though, it’s creating good pop hooks…and so Janice Prix continued on their quest undeterred. Their debut EP ‘Nobody Would Know’ says so much about their determination as their talent. Its five songs are layered in synths and punchy drum loops, yet at the same time, there’s a huge sound and just enough guitar to endear them to the kind of people who expect their pop to deliver a bit more than a quick sugar fuelled hit.

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STATE COWS – Stealing The Show EP

In 2011, something unexpected happened. The most perfect homage to American westcoast pop sounds appeared in the shape of a debut album by a band named State Cows. Bits of Toto, Airplay, Maxus and pretty much everything with that vibe from 1978-81 was reborn in an almost flawless contemporary recording. It was almost impossible to tell whether the recordings had been sitting in a vault since 1980. Even more unbelieveable, these wondrous American sounds were recreated in a much less sunny Sweden. For westcost lovers, tracks like ‘New York Town’ and the wryly humorous ‘Stella By The Barlight’ became fast and firm favourites. Two years on, the aptly named ‘The Second One’ brought more of the same, but was perhaps a little weaker in places. Not that State Cows had lost their knack for retro sounds – the songs were very strong; it was more that element of surprise was gone.

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