Track Review: Haim – Cherry Flavored Stomach Ache

Treading the perilous tightrope of making great pop music, whilst ensuring compromise is all but negligible, is a skill Haim have comfortably mastered. Haim are synonymous with marketability and great music; the sibling trio ooze charisma and have the talent to back it up!

Taken from the The Last Letter From Your Lover soundtrack, Cherry Flavored Stomach Ache has a chugging country sound, creating a jovial and gleeful listening experience. A delightful, chiming chord progression creates a charming riff that makes up the backbone of the two-and-a-half minute ditty. The same progression is replicated by harmonica blasts, evoking a mid-western barn dance feel, and a little reminiscent of Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac.

Lyrically, the song plays to Haim’s strengths – words of heartbreak and inner strength – and is a fine example of what the band do best – great pop rock!


Categorized as rock

Album Review: WILLOW – Lately I Feel EVERYTHING

Truly shedding the skin of her 2010 breakthrough hit, Whip My Hair, WILLOW is back with an edgier sound and more contemplative outlook. Even in 2010, at the tender age of nine-years-old, there were glimmers of rebelliousness but perhaps no obvious indication that she would later dabble in angst-ridden pop punk. Enter 2021 WILLOW! Coming in at 26 mins and 11 songs in total – meagre numbers even by the genre’s standard – WILLOW’s Lately I Feel Everything had to be nothing short of special. The final product is special with a small ‘s’.

Lyrically vulnerable and sincere is often the prerequisite of pop punk, and Lately I Feel Everything is no exception. It’s a brave endeavour, and much of the album is genuinely on point, if a little disjointed. Where this record triumphs is in WILLOW’s continuation of sound development. Lately I feel Everything is not just a random pop punk album by a random pop punk artist; given her 2020 album, Anxiety, this a progression. WILLOW is able to utilise the pop punk sound to add depth her own sound.

Opener, Transparent Soul, sets the tone of the album. Calling upon the ever-so-collaborative Travis Barker, the offering is an early noughties Blink 182-sounding number but with a more rambunctious edginess. Perhaps leaning more towards Paramore, Transparent Soul provides a pop punk masterclass. After a brief interlude with track, F**k You, arrives the ominously titled, Gaslight. Musically, Gaslight is a happy-go-lucky, pretty little ditty with an important message. A fine example of WILLOW embarking on a pop punk direction, whilst also ensuring the listener finds it challenging to draw comparisons with any of the genre’s forefathers.

Don’t Save Me is simply fantastic! From the staccato annunciation of the verses, to the riptide riff, this is the standout track of Lately I Feel Everything. Naïve is similarly fantastic. It’s not the music that carries it, but the vocal performance that directs success. Regardless of reverb, the vocal output is robust and haunting; such a chill is sent down the spine, the listener will be left with frostbite.

The album’s lead single, Lipstick, is a venture in originality within the somewhat rigid parameters of the pop punk sound; It’s tonally darker in sound than most pop punk records, however. The exceptional vocals and catchy lyrical hooks make Lipstick a memorable album effort.

Every album has its cannon fodder, right? Well, the awkwardness is bestowed upon 4ever, and XTRA – they are terrible! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. GROW is an American Pie prom night song, accompanied by a showstopper collaboration consisting Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker. Quite the party guest list – the guests just forgot to bring the playlist. Not Avril Lavigne’s finest hour, of which there are many to choose from. Lyrically, the song is positive but it’s sound is too teeny-bopper to be taken seriously.

Album closer, !BREAKOUT! is punchy and angry. The riff is more Led Zeppelin or Rage Against The Machine than Blink-182 or Sum 41, but that is by no means a bad thing. It exudes frantic urgency, and emits more energy than the latest sugar-laden, caffeine-saturated energy drink, or better yet, a Class A drug. A great way to end an album.

Overall, the album stumbles and stutters at times, but when was the last time you heard a faultless album? They are rarer than a pig with propellers! There are hundreds of pop punk albums that sound one hundred times worse than Lately I feel Everything. WILLOW’s first pop punk endeavour successfully captures modern youth anxieties in an eardrum satisfying manner. As a first venture into a new genre, WILLOW should not be overlooked as a viable artist within a fading niche.


Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: Chvrches – Good Girls

Arriving in the wake of the memorable and melodramatic Robert Smith collaboration, How Not To Drown, Chvrches we’re going to need something special as a follow up. Sadly, Good Girls is pop music at its shitest and most compressed.

Chvurches seem to have mastered the art of making music that is simultaneously toe-tappingly catchy and toe-curlingly cringeworthy – quite the achievement! Good Girls conjures up the same feelings of mundanity and indifference as a rainy Monday morning. It’s pop processed austerity personified! The dregs of the pop-synth barrel!

As on-trend, Instagram-friendly music the song just about cuts the mustard. But it will leave the music fan feeling like they have just inhaled a jar of Coleman’s finest. Good Girls is simply bad.


Categorized as Indie

Track Review: Twenty One Pilots – Formidable

Given that twenty one pilots have a tendency to release half of their album as singles, Formidable is certainly a formidable contender as an upcoming single.

A simple love song, but the the sound is so different to anything previously released by the duo. If you did not recognise Joseph’s voice, you’d be forgiven for completely overlooking the song as belonging to twenty one pilots.

The Philadelphian pair ditch the hard drums, overdriven baselines and rap rhetheroric, opting for a more laidback, The Cure inspired number. The comparison between Formidable and The Cure is irrefutable, and the main hook of the song is one the eighties rockers would have been proud to have produced themselves.

On the face of it, Formidable is about as formulaic as a song can get, but it’s Joseph’s penchant for dynamic songwriting and musicianship that sets it apart from so many other efforts of similar elk. The track is a beautifully crafted simplicity.


Categorized as rock

Track Review: DON BROCO – Gumshield

Bedford boys, DON BROCO, bring the noise with their latest no holds barred effort, Gumshield. This single should come with a warning: “teenagers are going to lose their shit.”

Initiating proceedings with an Infectious and taut trumpet hook, interest is immediately piqued. Resisting the urge not to whistle the curious hook is futile, and you’ll find the urge lasts all day. The same trumpet is used throughout the song with various effects, making it much more than an out-of-place, quirky intro.

“Put my gumshield in, protect me from myself,” croons vocalist Rob Damiani throughout the verse. And you better believe that audiences are going to need a gumshield when this brutally brash number is unleashed on the touring circuit!

The tension evoked throughout the verse is then tastefully resolved by a heavy, yet melodic chorus. The only red herring to an otherwise solid effort, is the beginning of the bridge, which is somewhat Frankenstein-esque; feeling as if it has been shoddily sewn together from another song.

Perturbingly underrated as a band, DON BROCO continue to release great music but fail to receive the recognition they deserve. Gumshied is a great release by a great band.


Categorized as rock

Track Review: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under

Chisel-cheeked Geordie, Sam Fender, makes his long-awaited musical return with new single, Seventeen Going Under, taken from the upcoming album of the same name.

Representing the North East of England with his Tyneside twang, Fender has been riding the crest of a wave for two years now. 2019 saw the newcomer pick up a Brit Award, and a number one album for Hypersonic Missiles. 2021 will be expecting a lot from the already acclaimed indie rocker.

Jangly guitar tones treat Seventeen Going Under, and initially the listener might feel they are in for some joyous optimism; however, this does not last long. There is a sense of motion in the song but, sadly, there is a monotony in that motion. The track doesn’t ever truly shift gear, struggling with a sticky clutch throughout.

Despite the largely uninteresting musical worth to Seventeen Going Under, there is a charm to the song that’s achieved through Fender’s canny raconteur skillet. He tells an endearing story of innocence, nostalgia and desperation as good as any of his English singer-songwriting peers. However, lyrics alone cannot carry a song bereft of musical intrigue.


Categorized as Indie

Track Review: Damon Albarn – Polaris

Cockney chimp turned Gorillaz maestro, Damon Albarn, returns to his nomadic solo ways with new single, Polaris.

Polaris is more Blur than Gorillaz but the identity of both acclaimed acts are ever-present, and the outcome is delightful. Cowbells and organs begin proceedings, before the song grows in depth with the addition of a thumping beat and supplementary instruments, successfully building tension and continually improving the track.

Polaris is not one for the radio, but it’s a jovial and memorable number. The song has an almost cathartic and religious musical undertone, inviting the listener to close their eyes and evangelically wave their arms from side to side, as if praising a higher power.

If the remainder of the tracks from Albarn’s upcoming alarm, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, sound half as good as Polaris, the music world are in for a treat.


Categorized as Indie, rock

Track Review: We Are Scientists – Contact High

Despite relinquishing their glory days’ crown some fifteen years ago, We Are Scientists can still assemble a tune. However, where their 2005 showstoppers consisted electric urgency, newer releases fall short in eliciting and reproducing that same vitalness.

New single, Contact High, emits the essence of We Are Scientists, encapsulating the sincerity and maturity of their early efforts, whilst remaining relevant in its final product – it’s just not the same! They are chasing something they will never replicate – a sound that was significant at a specific time.

Where Contact High triumphs is in its chorus. We Are Scientists are master craftsmen in the art of chorus construction, and Contact High is a fine example of the band in full flight. The Chorus steadily takes off before soaring high above the clouds.

Contact High is a great track from an accomplished act, and fans of the band will welcome this latest release. Just don’t expect anything new and exciting.


Categorized as Indie, rock

Track Review: You Me At Six – Read My Mind

You Me At Six, are certainty maturing in sound with latest release, Read My Mind, but they are losing their urgency and relevance.

Opening with complimentary scratchy riff and stained vocals, Read My Mind’s verse just about works, but this monosyllabic approach has been interpreted and bettered by countless other emo pop punk bands.

Where the band always come into their own, is their almost unrivalled efficacy for producing consistently catchy choruses. Although Read My Mind is a little more subtle than out-and-out catchy, its chorus hook can be hummed after the first chorus.

You Me At Six have always thrived on a monumental bridges, building tension to thrust them into the final chorus; although Read My Mind has an intriguing bridge, it fails to produce any momentum to drive the final chorus. The bridge is less Golden Gate, more dual carriageway.

It’s good to see that You Me At Six are still flying the flag for popular pop punk, but the flag is tattered and flying at half mast.


Track Review: YUNGBLUD – Like A Virgin

Love him or loathe him, YUNGBLUD does it the way he wants to do it. His unabashed, non-conformist rebelliousness is infectious, and certainly hasn’t hindered his success. And, if you look past his more-than-marketable image, he does produce quality pop music.

Covering Madonna’s hit, Like A Virgin, doesn’t seem like an odd selection for a cover song, given that YUNGBLUD never shies away from discussing the sexual escapades of youth as subject matter. In fact, it makes complete sense that he would cover Like A Virgin.

The final product is not a complete rework of the original. The drums are different, and the original certainly didn’t include any distortion, whatsoever. However, it’s the vocal performance that sets it apart from the original. YUNGBLUD’s vocals always command authority, and his rendition of Like A Virgin is no different. He makes the song his own, adding his unique tongue-in-cheek twist and Doncaster twang.

YUNGBLUD’s version of Like A Virgin does not better the original but it’s as good, and brings the eighties classic into the 21st Century. Madge would approve.


Categorized as rock