Surf City – Jekyll Island

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There are times when it is easy to get lost in a realm of fantasy, moments in life and indeed music when physically and mentally you can escape the hum drum and explore new landscapes. One such escape is the sultry adventure of Jekyll Island, the new and third album from New Zealand psychgazers Surf City. Basking in a sultry surf rock seeded climate wrapped in the summery smile of shoegaze and the sonic beauty of psyche rock, the release is a mesmeric lure for ears and imagination.

The successor to their acclaimed album We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This of 2013, Jekyll Island is a fascinating flight of sound and emotion. Songs again come soaked in the warm magnetic fuzziness which the band is becoming renowned for but equally feel more precisely sculpted and resourcefully rounded propositions. It is open growth and evolution in the Surf City songwriting but an emerging potency which defuses none of the band’s already rich and tantalising qualities; basically a maturity of existing prowess exploring fresh and vivaciously new adventure. Simply songs and album offer pure pop presented in summery embraces of charm and beauty.

The album is also an imposing grower on ears and passions, its early touches engaging and magnetic but continual exposure leads to anything from lustful rapture to lingering seduction. The first track though is an immediate enslavement of ears and emotions on its first ever touch. From its opening exotic web of percussive and sonic enticement, Beat The Summer Heat has imagination and appetite hooked; especially as from that opening shuffle a rhythmic contagion unleashes irresistible bait. Jabbing with their own individual swing, beats forge an addictive lure at the heart of the track, taking ears and pleasure by the hand as guitars swarm over their enticement with vivid colours and a lively shimmer. Vocally too Davin Stoddard is a beacon of warmth and magnetism, riding the contagion with radiance. The track is glorious, almost alone worth the cost of your ticket for the album’s compelling ride.

Surf City - Jekyll Island   There is no major drift in quality and temptation as the following Spec City takes over, it a song with a bubbling electro underbelly and a radiating surface of melodic and harmonic splendour. The song is a courtship of the senses, a My Bloody Valentine like caress making an unrelenting seduction as a Yo La Tengo like vibrancy brings livelier action to the romance. It is a tempting swiftly backed and taken into new explorations by Jekyll Island and the Psycosphere and in turn Hollow Veins. The first of the two is a fascinating mix of eighties new wave bred pop and nineties inspired psychedelic enterprise, but also littered with post punk hooks and a Happy Monday’s like devilry. The song is pure mesmerism and perfectly contrasted and complimented in tone by the darker rockier revelry of its successor. It romps through ears like a meeting of The Horrors and House Of Love engaged in a vintage surf rock revival, its touch and breath raw yet overwhelmingly seductive.

The guitars of Stoddard and Jamie Kennedy weave an infectious web of fuzz induced rock pop next in One Too Many Things, its twang offering a country whisper whilst its catchy tenacity has a Brit pop lilt to its tempting, whilst its successor What They Need expands the already potent variety within the album again. It opens with a droning tang of a sound you might expect from the band’s part of the world, a scuzz lined whiny lure which persists invitingly around the additional minimalistic yet weighty hug of sound filling its persuasion.

That constant tweaking of flavours has Leave Your Worries unveiling an anthemic infectiousness which plays like a the offspring of a union between The Mighty Lemon Drop, The Lightning Seeds, and Kitchens of Distinction, but as in all songs it emerges as unique to Surf City.

The delicious heavy bass seducing and just as enticing beats offered by Mike Ellis and Andy Frost at its start makes Indian Summer straight after, irresistible all on their own but infused with the melodic lustre of the guitars and the resonating touch of Stoddard’s vocals, it only proceeds to steal attention and the passions further. It is a charmer from start to finish, one carrying the right amount of mischief and excitement but an incitement which ultimately places the listener in a fulfilling and richly satisfying calm. That is a description suiting the whole of Jekyll Island to be honest, and especially the gorgeous pop of Thumbs Up which romps with ears and emotions next. Whether it is possible to ever write the perfect song is debateable but it is possible to come close and this is certainly a serious contender. Melodies reek of innocence yet are inflammatory on the ear whilst harmonies and rhythms simply engage in lustful and infection breeding temptation.

The album is brought to a just as thrilling end by firstly the more sober, in comparison to its predecessor, but raucously energetic dance of The End and lastly through the meditative glamour and brilliance of Jesus Elvis Coca Cola. Sixties kissed and soaked in aural sunshine, the track is a majestic sea of expressive harmonies and poetic melodies soaked in a wash of psychedelic humidity.

It is a transfixing end to an increasingly mouth-watering encounter. There is a great familiarity to Jekyll Island but only as a rich spice in the unique ambience and masterful imagination of Surf City. Psyche/shoegaze pop has rarely sounded better.

Jekyll Island is available via Fire Records now and digitally, on CD, and on black vinyl @ https://surfcitymusic.bandcamp.com/track/hollow-veins

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RingMaster 25/03/2015

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Onward Chariots: This is My Confession

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    This is My Confession from Onward Chariots is one of those albums which though it does not quite light a raging fire in the belly or hold a firm grip on ones attention from start to finish, it is a release which is hard to tear away from. The band has a sound which is a delicious hybrid of indie pop and progressive rock with a continually changing wash of extra steamy additives.  Because of this their debut album is a consistently intriguing and engaging release which leaves a warmth and satisfaction that cannot be denied or dismissed.

Onward Chariots is the invention of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ben Morss, an artist who has toured the world, played with Californian acid-jazz group 11:11, and arranged and played on albums for artists like Cake. He is also a music geek who has immersed himself in the sounds and creativity of Peter Bjorn & John, Belle & Sebastian, Yo La Tengo and The Beatles, a collection of artists amongst others which the album suggests have flavoured his own invention. Originally Morss recorded under the name Chariots of Tuna, which from accounts was a relatively short-lived project but in 2008 when Morss was playing in the Infinite Orchestra alongside Dan Davine (drums), Shawn Setaro (guitar), and Rus Wimbish (bass), the quartet came together to create melodic intricacies of pop which they mutually longed to make. This moment in time was the first official steps of Onward Chariots. The following year saw three songs posted online which led to strong responses and acclaim worldwide through blogs and fans with the band being compared to the likes of The Beach Boys, Beulah, The Shins and Belle and Sebastian. Festival appearances and radio play earned the band further recognition over the subsequent years leading to through Skipping Stones Records the unveiling of their first release.

The album is themed by the concept of boy meets girl, the tracks playing with premises and emotions from the varied teases of love.onward-chariots It begins with the golden showers of sonic elegance brought by the semi instrumental Opening. Twinkling melodies, warm harmonies, and brass borne kisses light the sky before a fiery energy intervenes to lead into This Is My Confession I. A wonderful throaty guitar sound introduces the track to remind of the first days of Killing Joke before opening into a pungent press of heavy rock sturdiness and the welcoming vocal lilt of Morss. Into its stride the song is an insistent and magnetic pleasure with an equal depth of sinewy allure and infectious melodic teasing.

The following Mel Gibson is a lighter pop rock romp with plays like a mix of Weezer and Union Starr. It is a peppy piece of energy which continues the impressive start. It is as catchy as a virus and takes the ear on a stroll of punchy rhythms and eager to please melodies which do not have to ask twice. There is also, to be not the only time on the album, a persuasive eighties breath to the song which adds to the engagingly textured musical poetry.

Following songs Sisters and Brothers with its heated Jan and Dean like harmonies and smoky trumpet persuasion and I Just Met a Girl with its jumpy swing recalling the classy tones of Town Called Malice, both without igniting the emotions as strongly as the earlier songs, leave the listener buoyant over their melodic and infectious rhythmic invitations. Though the album offers some instantaneously connecting songs it is generally more of a grower with the likes of When You’re Smiling and the harmonically glowing Mama along with the previous two songs, eventually earning their place in ones praise through the continual pleading of their tenderly crafted hearts across many plays.

The sixteen track release closes its first part with the heavier stomp of This Is My Confession II, a superior re-working of the first full song which then takes us into arguably the strongest part of album where songs like the mesmeric Forever Never Ends with its sultry melodic glaze shimmering across a seductive bassline, You Don’t Have To Be Unhappy, and I Want Everything reach stirring heights and hit the passions with the cleanest accuracy. The second of the trio has a great hook to start off its playtime of sixties pop and an addictive swagger complete with further impressive harmonies which feel Four Seasons inspired. It is a wonderful song equalled by the charging rock urgency of I Want Everything, a song which incites instinctive ardour for its outstanding rampancy.

Though it ebbs and flows in stature a little too much to be elevated to the highest echelons of acclaim, This is My Confession is a thoroughly enjoyable album. Certainly it takes its time to persuade but eventually does with style and deserves for all to take a stroll within its warm heart.

http://www.onwardchariots.com

7/10

RingMaster 14/02/2013

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Geva Alon : The Great Enlightenment

With his fourth album due for release in July Israeli singer songwriter Geva Alon could not have given a better teaser and enticement to the forthcoming release than with his new single The Great Enlightenment. A senses caressing yet emotionally haunting song it sets up a definite anticipation and enthused interest for new album In The Morning Light due July 16th.

From playing with his indie rock band The Flying Baby for many years and Shay Noblemen, Alon has over the past few years become a major name in his homeland from his solo work and live shows which have seen him play alongside the likes of Paul Weller and Yo La Tengo and more recently wider afield acclaim with a Spanish and Israeli tour alongside Depedro, the new project from Calexico collaborator Jairo Zavala. His debut solo album of 2006 Days of Hunger brought his country-flavoured acoustic guitar inspired sounds to notice, the following releases The Wall of Sound in 2007 and Get Closer of 2009 which was produced by Thom Monahan (The Jayhawks, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr.) as are the new single and album, strengthening his ever growing recognition and acclaim. From the evidence of the new single his new album will only accelerate things again in and outside Israel as will a series of live shows in the UK this month.

The Great Enlightenment emerges upon the ear with an instant striking atmosphere brought by the emotive guitars and attentive rhythms. With a lovely melancholic bass moodily permeating the song there is an immediate sense of drama to the dreamy ambience. As the excellent tones of Alon expand the song brings a dawning of realisation within the warm lingering yet slightly unsettled air. The song is outstanding and draws thoughts and feelings which could quite easily have been inspired by a Twin Peaks episode. Alon vocally has been compared to the likes of Neil Young and Nick Drake and it is probably the most accurate description though his voice has a class and uniqueness all of its own which sets him apart.

The guitar prowess of Alon and fellow guitarist Daniel Hindman from folk band Vetiver is ear catching, both aided and complimented by the fine talent of Rufus Wainwright bassist Jeff Hill and drummer Otto Hauser, the quartet coming together to create a mesmeric song which inspires and enchants equally.

If you had any second thoughts or uncertainty about investigating In The Morning Light upon its unveiling just listen to The Great Enlightenment, it has all the reasons and persuasion you need.

Ringmaster 18/06/2012

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